Generating 3D landscapes from Aerial Photos

I love playing around with new technology and my I have a strong background in 3D modeling since I was a young kid and got a job in the video game industry.  I’m also always looking for new ways to use my skills test out new ideas.

I have been playing around with the idea of using my drones to build 3d landscapes and over the time tested various software to help convert 3d aerial photos into 3d objects.  Granted some of my first tests didn’t turn out as well as I thought so I kept playing around to see what I could come up with.

I’m using Pix4d to convert the Nadar type of photos (basically the camera on the drone looks directly down at the ground).  I use my iPad Ground Station from DJI to fly a grid style pattern making sure I have enough overlap of images taking fro the GoPro.

Below is the flight path I took, this is my usual spot I fly when testing out new things or just expanding my flight skills.

ipad-ground-station

**Keep in mind this uses google maps data and well hasn’t been updated in a long time, the place Im flying has no water, see my post here with some additional photos of the drought here in Lake Tahoe.

I set my GoPro to do timelapse photos at every 2 seconds and set the Phantom 2 to fly at about 3-4mph at a hight of 70 feet above the ground.

This is roughly the area I captured.

mapping

After the flight I ended up with about 157 12megapixel images which then I took into the Pix4D software and had it crunch the data to create a point cloud from the images and then a 3d textured landscape which you can see below.  Note the green squares show where the image was taken and the projection is used to calculate the landscape.

3dlandscape

Im surprised how well it worked given the nature of the ground I was shooting and not much variation. This was my first real test which actually worked with out hours of manual work on my end (I tried sketch 123D in the past).

I create a quick 3d fly though video using their camera tools, its a bit crude as to what I’m used to and Ill get better. 🙂

Over all I was quite happy with my results and will be testing this over various landscapes here in Tahoe.

Gallery:

If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment below.

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Steve

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