HOW TO CREATE A 3D MAP USING DRONES IN 4 EASY STEPS

By Andrew Vlachopoulos

In recent years, the continuous development of technology has led to the improvement of many sectors of the industry and the way it works. A typical example is the construction sector, which is moving at a dizzying pace, using these new technologies to its advantage.

A frequent application of the above in the construction sector is the use of drones for 3D mapping.

Photographs taken by drones are then processed with the help of special programs to create a 3d mapping (which is a three-dimensional representation of an object created by plotting individual points in 3D space on the X, Y, and Z. The points are connected by geometric shapes, such as triangles, lines, or curved surfaces, to form the model). This procedure will deliver valuable information and data about the construction to each potential investor and/or manufacturer.

The process of making 3d maps based on the data of flying machines is called aerial photogrammetry.

Step Number One

CHOOSE A RELIABLE DRONE FOR THE JOB

Yes. You guessed it!

Choosing the right drone is probably the most important element that will judge the success of the project!

But is it that simple to make the right choice?
The answer is that you can if you are well informed. That is how you will be as soon as you read this article.

More specifically, there are 3 basic types of surveying drones: Fixed Wing Drones, Single Rotor Drones & Multi-Rotor Drones – VTOL Helicopter UAVs. But let’s look at the basics for each category.

Fixed Wing Drones

These are drones in the form of aircraft with fixed wings. Due to their design, they cannot be suspended above a fixed point, as they must be in constant motion to cover a distance. These drones run on either petrol or batteries and are suitable for a variety of mapping services, especially if the mapping involves large parts of space and not specific ones.

You can land it either on a fixed road or by using a drone parachute.

Drones such as the DJI Mavic Enterprise and the DJI Phantom RTK are very reliable solutions in this category.

Multi-Rotor Drones

Probably the most Value For Money mapping drones solution. Multiple propellers may require more energy, but on the other hand, they provide even greater swing stability over a target, making drone operation even easier.

Get a Matrice 300 rtk if you want to approach a building without knocking on the door.

As for the landing? Like sitting in an armchair after eating too much.

Easy and soothing!

Step Number Two

CHOOSE THE RIGHT NUMBER AND THE CORRECT LOCATION OF GCPs

If you need to do the job right, you need to know the craft of GCPs. GCPs are ground control points (large targets marked on the ground) that are carefully and strategically spaced all across the site. These marks are used later on by the photogrammetry software to triangulate the position of the camera relative to the position of the GCP and align the images overall, transforming them into a 3D map.

Sounds cool, doesn’t it?

Ok. I have placed my GCPs on the ground. It’s time to fly my drone.

Well…

Not Yet!

The most critical part that will assure a correct and complete job is picking the right number and the right spots that GCPs will be placed. Not having the right number of GCPs is probably the most common mistake, even made by big companies, which will lead to blurry photos.

The more GCPs on the ground, the better. Just have in mind to spread them carefully all across the site as the data that are collected, later on, can reduce the possibility of a mistake from a few meters to a few centimeters.

Step Number Three

BE FULLY PREPARED! REDUCE THE CHANCES OF A MISTAKE TO MINIMUM

Well, you‘ve heard that again but it’s probably the most important step of them all!
Organization, preparation, and testing are the three basic ingredients for this successful recipe.

Check the weather report some days before the official flight. Have your equipment (drones, memory cards batteries/gas) checked. Do full research of the site you will be mapping and choose carefully your GCPs. Do some testing flights to test that everything is working fine.

Even the most experienced and specialized drone pilots can confirm that they have stepped on the banana even once!

Step Number Four

CHOOSE A PROPER 3D MAPPING PHOTOGRAMMETRY SOFTWARE AND LEARN TO USE IT LIKE THE PALM OF YOUR HAND

Photogrammetry can be really useful for multiple applications. It’s a way of creating the digital image version of an existing object, person, or landscape. With the right data taken from the drones, photogrammetry is used to get all the information of existing physical objects, by imitating the stereoscopy of the binocular human vision.

So!

You have successfully completed all the above steps and you have the pictures you need in your possession. Now we are ready for the final step, which is the 3D transformation.

That’s why you need software that will help you do some magic with amazing but also effective results.

There are many pc programs to do the job out there. You just have to pick the right one that works out for you.

Let’s mention the most known ones.

Free Photogrammetry Software

  • Agisoft Metashape
  • Mic Mac
  • Meshroom
  • 3DF Zephyr Free
  • Visual SFM
  • Colmap
  • Regard 3D
  • Open MVG

Paid Photogrammetry Software

  • ContextCapture
  • Reality Capture
  • 3DF ZEPHYR
  • Autodesk ReCap Pro
  • Trimple Inpho
  • WebODM
  • IWitnessPRO
  • Pix4Dmapper
  • Photomodeler Pro5
  • SOCET GXP
  • DroneDeploy
  • Correlator3D

You did it!

If not, better hire a professional.

Summary

Creating a 3D MAP using drones can be a challenging procedure.
Can it be done by a beginner?

Yes, it can.

If the above steps are followed and of course, one has the time and dedication to understand and perform the necessary procedures, then yes, a 3D map can be made.

Will you succeed?

It depends on the effort one makes, the experience one will gain over time, and of course the mistakes one will make.

If what you are reading sounds interesting to you, then start trying now.

If you are still not ready to waste time and possibly some money, then hire a professional who adheres to the above.

Because even if you don’t do the job yourself, now at least you know how to single out a good professional who will do the job for you successfully!