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Geospatial Data & Software Applications

Software Options: Desktop and Online Software Applications

Vizualizing Data – The Visualizing Data website provides a comprehensive catalogue of some cutting edge desktop & cloud-based software applications. Select the “Mapping” option to better refine your search.  Some of these platform options are free.  There are also some nice data visualization application tools as well.

Google Earth Pro – A user-friendly geospatial exploration system that is appropriate for just about anybody.  Check out this Google Earth Pro Tutorial from VAView NEED to Link to this once it has ‘moved over’.

Google Earth Engine – This is a streaming platform for scientific analysis and visualization of geospatial datasets.  It is probably most applicable for academic, non-profit, business, and government users. GE Engine takes advantage of vast data archives and on the cloud computing.  There are also some great tutorials associated with GE Engine. Check out these GE Engine tutorials from GeorgiaView.

Esri – Most 2 and 4-year colleges & universities in Virginia (and in other states as well) have access to the Esri suite of software products through Virginia’s Educational Software License Agreement with Esri.  This license provides access to a suite of geospatial software products  that are available to faculty, staff, and enrolled students.  Installation instructions for students, faculty, and staff affiliated with Virginia Tech is available from here.  has developed tutorials to support remote sensing processing using ArcGIS software products.  Need to link this to the resource on the ‘tutorials’ webpage.  Some examples of commonly used products include:

  • ArcGIS Pro – Esri’s premier and feature dense geospatial software that supports all phases of GIS project implementation, as well as image analysis and Lidar data processing.
  • ArcGIS Online – Data discovery and sharing ‘on the cloud’, while maintaining some basic analysis tools. Platform independent.
  • Community Analyst Online – CAO is a cloud-based mapping solution that provides access to a plethora of demographic data assets, coupled with some basic analysis tools.
  • Business Analyst Online – BAO is a cloud-based mapping solution that provides access to a plethora of business-driven data assets, coupled with some basic analysis tools

If you are a VT faculty/staff/student, and you want to install ArcGIS Pro or access the Esri suite of software options via the statewide license?

Other software options include:

GIS Software (free)

Remote Sensing Software (free)

  • GRASS: Geographic Resources Analysis Support System
    • This one has stood the test of time. While it might not be the most user-friendly, it has the reputation of being quite robust.
  • ImageJ
    • Funded through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), ImageJ is a user-friendly image processing system that runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS. It is a popular platform for teaching image processing.
  • Interimage
    • Has a reputation for automated feature extraction through object-based image analysis (OBIA). Plus, this option was initially developed by our friends in Brazil (documentation is available in English…).
  • MultiSpec
    • This too, has stood the test of time. Best of all, it was developed by Larry Biehl.
  • QGIS
    • QGIS’s semi-automatic classification plugin has received great reviews. Using this plug-in, users can download satellite imagery directly into the software (including Sentinel, Landsat, MODIS, and ASTER).

Drone Related Software

  • Getting Ready to Fly
    • SkyVector: is a free online flight planner that defines airspace restrictions. This application contains every aeronautical chart for the U.S.  If you need help interpreting the charts, be sure to check out our video tutorial series Mastering the Aeronautical Chart
    • DJI Flysafe / GeoZone Map – If you are planning to operate a DJI manufactured drone, then you should probably check the GeoZone Map to ensure that your drone is not ‘locked down’ in areas where it may (otherwise) be unrestricted.  This is an additional layer of safety that DJI puts on their drones.  Some of these zones can be unlocked.  It is easy to do, just follow the steps in this document.
    • B4UFly – This is available as on the Desktop and as an App (Android and iOS).  Great for clarifying airspace, getting LAANCE authorization, etc.  Note that this App was developed for Recreational drone operators.  However, it can be used (along with other official sources, like SkyVector and 1800WXBrief) by commercial drone operators to double check airspace restrictions.
    • 1800WXBrief.com – requires an account.  This service provides NOTAMS and  weather briefings.  This service was designed for manned aircraft but is applicable to drone pilots as well, and is considered to be an official source of information.  Check out this video to walk you through the process.
    • Local weather – You may want to start with Aviationweather.gov, and then choose your favorite weather app to acquire more specific local weather forecasts and conditions. Weather Underground and the Weather Channel are favorites (but there are a slew of other appropriate websites and apps).
    • GoogleEarth Pro: Before heading out into the field to fly, it is always good to do some reconnaissance level planning.  There are lots of options available, this is just one Geographic Information Explorer!
    • Get experience, utilize the Manual Flight Practice Exercises and work through other drone and flight tutorials!
  • Autonomous Flight Planning Software
    • Pix4D Capture -is a (free) planning software that supports mission planning for an array of drone platforms (including DJI, YUNEEC, etc.).  This is not a desktop application, but is an App that runs on iOS or Android devices (think Smartphones & Tablets).
    • Drone Harmony – is free for recreational pilots.  This supports an array of DJI drones.  As of today, it looks like it only supports Android devices.
    • Mission Planner – (freeware).  It may not be quite as user-friendly as some of the other options, but supports a wide range of aircraft and provides lots of options.
    • QGround Control (freeware).  This opensource software. Perhaps not as user-friendly as some of the options above, but since it is open source, the code can be tailored to fit your needs (if that is your thing). QGround Control documentation is available online.
    • DroneDeploy  (not free, but you can subscribe by the month) – provides  flight planning and image processing
  • Image Post Processing Software
    • OpenDroneMap (Free, or $50 for a more user-friendly version) is a post processing software that allows you to generate maps, point clouds, DEM’s and 3D models from aerial images.  Great for educators and others.
    • Maps Made Easy:  post processing software that is also free for smaller data collection efforts.  After that, it is based on a point system that is still very affordable.  Great for educators
    • DroneDeploy –   You can subscribe to DroneDeploy a month at a time (or annually). This software has been a favorite of educators.  Generate orthomaps, point clouds, DEM’s, etc.  Check out DroneDeploy’s list of supported drones. You can also receive a 14-day free trial.
    • ArcGIS Pro – Typically considered to be a GIS software option, but this can also be used to mosaic imagery and conduct basic image analysis.  This is not super user-friendly, but it is available for free to both 2-year and 4-year college & university faculty (and students) through Virginia’s statewide educational license. There is also a low cost option (really low) for precollege educators in Virginia.
    • Drone2Map – ESRI’s drone image processing software.  A bit more user-friendly than ArcGIS Pro.
    • Pix4D


Geospatial Tools

Track Kit– collect, share, waypoints and routes.

Survey123 – Survey123 for ArcGIS is a simple form-centric data collection GIS app. Using your ArcGIS organizational account you will be able to login into the app and download any forms that may have been shared with you. Once a form is downloaded, you will be able to start collecting data. If working offline, your completed forms will be saved locally. When connected, you can submit the data back to ArcGIS.  Note that this can be used to collect points.

ArcGIS Collector – More robust than Survey123, but not quite as streamlined. Can be used to collect points, lines, or polys.

Fulcrum GIS – Easy to use data collector app, compatible with most GIS systems.  It is not free, but there is a free trial available.

Geospatial Education

GNSS View – This is a pretty handy app that enables you to visualize where the GNSS satellites are located relative to your position.

Maps.me – Crowd sourcing maps app (and great for hiking and travelers too!)

Drone Apps

DronePan:  great little App that will makes it easy to capture aerial panoramas.

Pix4d Capture:  is a free drone flight planning app. Available for both android and iOS.  Supports both DJI and Parrot.

Precision Flight mobile: flight planning app. for DJI drones.

B4UFly: user-friendly and much improved. This app graphically displays where recreational drone operators can and can not legally fly.

UAV Forecast: Provides UAV forecasts for just about anywhere in the U.S. Contains both charts and maps.

Compass – Everybody needs a compass at some point.  Here’s one for your phone.

GNSS Status  – this app provides a number of servics, but we primarily use it to verify GNSS status information while planning / conducting drone flights.

KittyHawk – Pretty comprehensive sUAS app.  Provides support for preflight considerations, LAANC Authorization, etc.  Some of KittyHawk’s Apps are free, some are not.

B4UFly – This application was developed for recreational drone pilots. Drone operators can utilize B4UFly provides interactive maps and allows operators to quickly identify restricted airspace.

DroneBuddy – weather app that provides some good info. for drone pilots

YR – Seems like everything designed by the Norwegians is a step ahead.  Great weather forecasting / & weather visualization app.

Windy – Wind forecast app. Shows forecasted gusts.  Great for drone pilots, sailors, and kite fliers.

iDiskPro – Great application that can be used to transfer images / pdfs from an iPhone to other devices (using a USB / Lightning port)

DroneDeploy App – Great tools for most DJI platforms.  There is a free trial period to test and use the App.  After that, you’ll need to pay for it.

DJI Go 4 – Works with DJI drones.