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High-Resolution 3D Scans Built From Drone Photos

By Technology Review

March 23, 2015

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Drones offer an inexpensive way to capture three-dimensional (3D) scans of buildings, terrain, and other objects.

A high-resolution 3D replica of Rio's iconic Christ statue, built from more than 2,000 photos captured by a drone using an ordinary digital camera, was unveiled in February. The Swiss company Pix4D, the maker of software than can build highly accurate models by comparing many different overlapping photos, collaborated with drone manufacturer Aeryon Labs and researchers at PUC University of Rio de Janeiro on the project. The digital double was accurate to between two to five centimeters, enough to capture individual mosaic tiles.

Pix4D CEO Christoph Strecha says being able to easily and frequently capture detailed 3D imagery could have many uses, such as speeding up construction projects and helping Hollywood make better special effects.

The control and coordination of drones in challenging conditions such as wind could determine the ambitions of drone scanning, notes Rochester Institute of Technology Center for Imaging Science professor Carl Salvaggio. "Perhaps when there are 'armies' of drones in the air, we will see a different landscape emerge," he says.

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