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Photogrammetry with Drones: Creating 3D Models

by Anshika Malik 21 Dec 2023
Photogrammetry with Drones

In the dynamic world of technology, the fusion of photogrammetry and drones has revolutionised the way we capture and model our surroundings. This powerful combination opens up new possibilities for professionals in fields like surveying, mapping, architecture, and even hobbyists eager to explore the realms of 3D modelling. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating realm of photogrammetry with drones, unravelling the process of creating intricate 3D models that can elevate your projects to new heights.

Understanding Photogrammetry and Drones

Let's start with the basics. Photogrammetry is a technique that uses photographs to create accurate 3D models of objects, structures, or landscapes. When combined with drones, this process becomes highly efficient and scalable. Drones equipped with high-resolution cameras capture a series of overlapping images from different angles, providing the raw material needed for the photogrammetric software to work its magic.

Choosing the Right Drone for Photogrammetry


The first step in embarking on your photogrammetry journey is selecting the right drone for the job. Consider factors such as camera quality, flight time, and GPS accuracy. Drones like the DJI Phantom 4 RTK or the sense Fly eBee X are popular choices among professionals due to their advanced features and reliability.

Ensure that your chosen drone is equipped with a high-resolution camera capable of capturing sharp and detailed images. The camera's sensor size and megapixel count play a crucial role in the quality of the data you'll collect for your 3D models.

Planning Your Photogrammetry Mission


Successful photogrammetry relies on meticulous planning. Before taking flight, carefully plan your mission to ensure optimal data collection. Identify the area you want to capture, taking into account the terrain, lighting conditions, and any potential obstacles. Use specialised flight planning software such as Pix4Dcapture or Drone Deploy to plan your drone's flight path, ensuring it covers the entire area with sufficient overlap between images.

Proper mission planning helps maximise the accuracy of your 3D models and minimises the risk of missing crucial data points. Pay attention to the altitude, speed, and camera settings to achieve the desired level of detail in your images.

Capturing High-Quality Images

The success of photogrammetry hinges on the quality of the images you capture. Ensure your drone's camera settings are optimised for the conditions on the day of the flight. Adjust shutter speed, ISO, and aperture to accommodate the lighting conditions and obtain sharp, well-exposed images.

Maintain consistent overlap between images, typically around 70-80%, to provide the software with sufficient data for accurate reconstruction. Overlapping images allow the photogrammetric software to identify common features and triangulate their positions in 3D space.

Processing Data with Photogrammetric Software

Once you've captured the necessary images, it's time to process the data using specialised photogrammetric software. There are several powerful tools available, including Pix4D, Agisoft Metashape, and RealityCapture. These programs analyse the images, identify key points, and create a dense point cloud that forms the basis for your 3D model.

During the processing phase, you'll need a powerful computer with sufficient RAM and processing power to handle the data-intensive calculations. Be patient, as this step can take some time, depending on the complexity and size of your project.

Refining Your 3D Model

After the initial processing, you may need to refine your 3D model to achieve the desired level of accuracy and detail. This involves cleaning up any artefacts, filling in gaps, and optimising the mesh. Photogrammetry software often provides tools for these tasks, allowing you to sculpt your model into a true-to-life representation of the captured area.

Consider using additional software, such as Blender or Mesh Lab, for more advanced editing and customization. These tools give you the flexibility to fine-tune your model and add realistic textures for a polished final result.

Applications of Photogrammetry with Drones

The versatility of photogrammetry with drones extends across various industries, offering a range of applications:

1.Surveying and Mapping: 

Accurately map large areas, survey construction sites, and create topographic maps with high precision.

2.Architecture and Urban Planning:

 Generate detailed 3D models of buildings and urban landscapes for architectural design, analysis, and visualisation.

3.Environmental Monitoring: 

 Monitor and analyse changes in the environment, such as deforestation, land degradation, and natural disasters.

4.Cultural Heritage Preservation:

 Document and preserve historical sites and artefacts with detailed 3D reconstructions.

5.Mining and Quarrying:

 Conduct volumetric analysis, monitor site conditions, and plan extraction activities more efficiently.

6.Film and Media Production: Create realistic 3D landscapes for film, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) applications.

Best Practices for Photogrammetry Success

To ensure success in your photogrammetry endeavours, consider the following best practices:

1.Calibrate Your Equipment:

Regularly calibrate your drone's camera and GPS to maintain accuracy in your data.

2.Weather Considerations:

 Choose optimal weather conditions for your flights. Overcast days can reduce shadows and enhance image consistency.

3.Ground Control Points (GCPs): 

Use ground control points to improve the accuracy of your models, especially in large-scale projects.

4.Data Storage and Backup: 

Manage your data efficiently and maintain backups to prevent loss in case of hardware failure or other issues.

5.Stay Informed:

 Keep abreast of advancements in drone and photogrammetry technology. Regularly update your software and firmware to access the latest features and improvements.

The marriage of photogrammetry and drones has unlocked a realm of possibilities for creating stunning 3D models. Whether you're a surveyor, architect, environmentalist, or hobbyist, integrating these technologies into your workflow can elevate your projects to new heights of precision and visual appeal. By following the outlined steps, choosing the right equipment, and adhering to best practices, you can master the art of photogrammetry with drones and unlock a world of creative and practical applications. Embrace this powerful synergy and witness your projects take flight in the immersive dimension of three-dimensional reality.

Explore a variety of drones at our online drone store.

Happy Flying!

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