Posts tagged "3D mapping"

Press Conference – Terra Drone CEO, Toru Tokushige (third from the right)

Terra Drone Co., Ltd., a leading Japanese industrial drone service provider, and KDDI Corporation,  a Japanese telecommunications operator succeeded in a fully autonomous flight experiment of “Smart Drone” using “3D map” and “Drone Port.” As a result of the experiment, the world’s first long-distance drone flight of about 6.3 km via the “Drone Port” which enables a drone to recharge automatically, successfully returned to the landing site after spraying terraced ponds of Nishikigoi (carp) with pesticide.

Terra Drone and KDDI aim to establish an infrastructure that enables secure long-distance autonomous flight utilizing Smart Drone and the mobile communication network.

This demonstration is an experiment for safe flight altitude setting on the “3D map” and automatic charging by “drone port,” which verified that the long-distance autonomous drone flight is technically possible.

KDDI has partnered with Terra Drone and Zenrin, a Japanese map publisher to jointly developed “Smart Drones Platform,” which realizes safe drone flight using the mobile communication network and 3D map for autonomous drone flight and set a secure flight altitude automatically. 3D map enables a drone to cognize altitude differences of topography such as mountains and hills, buildings, and Terra Drone and KDDI accomplished automatic discrimination of difference in elevation of more than 100m in this experiment.

Also, the “Drone Port” developed by Prodrone Co., Ltd., industrial drone platform manufacturer,  has the automatic landing function based on image recognition which enables long-distance flight via Drone Port.

Yamakoshi City, Niigata Prefecture, Japan, where the demonstration experiment conducted, has one of the leading Nishikigoi pools in Japan. To breed a beautiful and large Nishikigoi, spraying all over the terraced ponds with pesticide in a boat is time-consuming and labor-intensive.

With Smart Drone capable of long-distance autonomous flight using “3D map” and mobile communication network, you can automatically set altitude and apply effective pesticide spraying just by setting the location.

In the future, when Smart Long-distance autonomous flight infrastructure of smart drone using this mobile communication network has established, this platform will be active in the fields of not only agriculture but also surveying topography and equipment, security of facilities, disaster monitoring and delivery to remote areas.

Please refer to Smart Drone website for details on “4G LTE Operation Management System”  (

Reference: Time & Space

About Terra Drone Co., Ltd.

Our head office is located in Tokyo, with five branches scattered throughout Japan and Australia. We are utilize the finest laser and photo surveying methods through our drones, creating high quality 3D mapping, and providing essential tools for construction management both within and outside Japan.

Featured is our original drone technology, high security quality, high speed data analysis, reflexive response, and cutting-edge software.  Our targeted clients for the ideal business are major construction companies, civil engineering and land surveying companies. To date, we have had greater than 500 UAV surveying projects completed, making us the highest regarded UAV surveyors under the “i-Construction initiative in Japan.  In the field of drone management systems (UTM), we have partnered with Unifly and developing a flight management system that is truly next generation. Our group company, Terra Motors, manufactures and sells innovative electric-motor bicycles and tricycles in Asia. Sales figures are above 30,000 individual units per year and controls 85% of the overseas sales ratio.

Project Description

Exploring ways to expand and better their services, the participants developed a project to present what can be achieved by combining aerial photography, photogrammetry-based 3D modeling, and 3D printing.

“First we had to select iconic buildings on the island which were aesthetic enough to highlight their aerial capturing, and interesting enough in terms of volumes to be 3D printed.” said Guy Dentan.

Each participant brought up different elements to the project: Guy Dentan from Unautregard added his photography and photogrammetry-based 3D modeling expertise, Michael Morin from Planète Sports & Loisirs his aerial photography skills, and Killian Jouan from 3D Arcwest his 3D printing experience.

The project comprised three stages: capturing the aerial images, processing them into 3D models using Pix4D software, and 3D printing the resulting meshes.

Data Acquisition

 The data acquisition methods and equipment had to be adapted to two different environment conditions. The ruins of the Abbey of Chatelier, constructed in the 12th century, are located in the middle of fields in a rural environment, while the church of Ars-en-Ré, a building dating from the 15th century, stands with its emblematic black and white bell tower on a square in the center of the village, in a densely built area.

Abbey of Chatelier
To capture the ruins of the main building and remains spread on surrounding fields, the equipment chosen was a DJI Phantom 3 Advanced drone and an iPad Mini to control the drone with Pix4Dcapture in ” Free Flight Mission” mode.
Two 20-minute flights were necessary to capture the 851 images used as input.

Church of Ars-en-Ré
In order to reconstruct the church and its tall steeple with high precision, and to overcome the challenge posed by a densely built surrounding environment, the team chose a DJI Inspire 1 drone fitted with a Zenmuse X5 camera, and an iPad Mini to control the drone flight and image capture with Pix4Dcapture in “Free Flight Mission” mode.
Seven 20-minute drone flights were necessary to capture the 1222 images used as input

Achieved Results

Abbey of Chatelier

The processing Quality Report of this project outlined a GSD of 1.06 cm / 0.42 in. The mesh generated by Pix4D was optimal upon completion of calculation; it offered unparalleled realism and a very high level of detail. Shrubs around the ruins were cleared using Pix4D editing tools to make the model ready to print in 3D.

Church of Ars-en-Ré
The processing Quality Report of this project outlined an impressively low GSD of 0.7 cm / 0.27 in, and as in the case of the abbey, the mesh was edited in order to remove unwanted elements before 3D printing. All the cars that were parked around the building were suppressed with the Pix4D software editing tools.

Advantage of This New Technology

Guy Dentan of Unautregard: “I am constantly seeking to understand, master, and associate the best technologies available on the market to create an innovative package of products and services. It is a genuine work philosophy.

I simply don’t find it interesting to develop what already exists. For this project, we had to combine drones, digital photography, Pix4D software, 3D modeling, and printing to form a coherent set to satisfy or create customer needs.

A sales pitch is a lot more convincing when showing the complete process with images rather than delivering long explanations. I spend a lot of time making videos of my different projects to share with future customers and their feedback is always excellent since Pix4D models and exports are of outstanding quality.”

Author: Guy Dentan

The emerald golfing greens have seen better days. According to the US National Golf Foundation, the number of players has almost steadily declined from over 30 million in 2005 (pre-recession), to 24.7 million today. 680 US and 158 Canadian courses have closed. 

“Golf course owners are working smarter to manage resources like water and labor more efficiently.” said CEO Mike Davis of the US Golf Association, in an interview with Forbes. “We are innovating at a rapid pace, and using technology and data as never before to make smart decisions.”

Drone technology and Pix4D mapping software are two technologies entering the golf industry with the potential to create more efficient and attractive courses. We interviewed tech industry leaders to see where drone mapping applies to golf. 

Design and maintenance

Accurate 3D models are a valuable tool to design and maintain golf courses.


Drone mapping — or 3D surveying with drone imagery and Pix4D software — provides relevant visual and quantitative information for golf course planning. Microsoft recently stepped in this direction with its development of Microsoft Course IQ

“It’s an application built for learning how technology can improve golf course design,” said Stefan Gordon, principal software engineer at Microsoft, who worked on the app. Engineers took ten-thousand aerial photos of four top US golf courses, then reconstructed detailed 2D and 3D maps of them using Pix4Dmapper Pro.

“Combined with other datasets and machine learning technology,” said Gordon, “The tool provides deep insight into these courses.” A landscape designer, for example, could use Course IQ to access data on the Plainfield Country Club course — not only accurate 3D models and topography maps from Pix4D, but information on soil composition or bedrock depth. 

Such maps can also be used during the design process to determine elevation and flood risk areas, like Christopher Haddad of Jamaica UAV did with his drone mapping data of the Tryall Estate Golf Course (image above).


25–35% of total club revenues go towards maintenance costs. By using 3D models of a course, management can better monitor the green and conduct hole-by-hole analysis, especially of large courses.

Kevin Barba, co-founder of Summit Drones, stated that the 3D golf course models he provides give owners more control over their course, helping them keep customers satisfied.

“They can now — for instance — look at that stubborn pine tree on hole #4, and using Pix4D software, accurately calculate the height and width of the tree, estimate the weight of the tree, and the cost and time it would take to remove it,” said Barba, who also uses the workflow to help monitor fairway health, in order to calculate upkeep costs of different seasons. 

Microsoft engineer Gordon identified maintenance as a key reason to 3D map golf courses. “We’ve seen interest from course owners in detailed contour mapping,” he said, “so that they can ensure a famous course is maintained in a historically accurate way after many years have passed.”

Marketing and Communication

3D models can play a key role in online promotion.

As part of their online marketing and communication strategy, golf course owners are adopting interactive 3D models as a tool to engage their audiences in a process of discovery. Imagine trying to decide on a golf destination, says Barba of Summit Drones, if you are hundreds of miles away and want to spend one day golfing your dream course! 

“Aerial 3D mapping is a powerful tool that can do everything,” said Barba, “from giving the customer that virtual experience to feel like they know the golf course and have played it.”

One marketing strategy of 3D models, mentions David Field of Drone Tech Aerospace Ltd, is to promote the club along with a promotional video and aerial photographs, “To allow their club members and potential members to preview the course virtually.”

Game planning

3D models are also a game planning tool.

Last but not least, golf is a game, and players need tools to to define a strategy. With accurate interactive 3D models, golfers plan their rounds in advance: preparing their approach to each hole before they actually step on the green.

In Kevin Barba’s words, “Utilizing photogrammetry and 3D mapping gives golfers the ability to know every blade of grass and grain of sand on the course, so they are confident and prepared for a great day on the green.”

Microsoft Course IQ is taking game planning to the next level. A golfer navigating the 3D or topographic model of a golf resort can access multiple information layers, like the current temperature, sunlight, and wind conditions, or even advice on making their tee time reservation.

As photogrammetry and drone-based services advance, there are new 3D mapping territories to discover. As a final product or as a layer in a project, Pix4D outputs enable the development of new business applications.

Do you have a drone mapping business idea? Get Pix4D software and start mapping!

Project Description

This project consisted of several phases and took place in an office building of Mosini Caviezel SA, Switzerland: a rural house that includes five rooms and a large hallway.

The main objectives were to create an indoor plan in 2D, evaluate the application of terrestrial photogrammetry for establishing a PPE (Propriété Par Étages/property by floors, or condominium ownership of an apartment) plan, and find out an optimal protocol for surveying and architecture companies to document property indoors that is of low cost and sustainable.

The first phase was to acquire images in different ways, to figure out the ones which give the best results. Using the photogrammetry software Pix4Dmapper, it was easy to assess the quality of each method and to continue to the following step – scaling the project to obtain precise measurements.

In the final phase, all processed Pix4D projects were analyzed and compared in order to assess the feasibility of the workflow and to sum up for a protocol in the near future.

Data Acquisition

All images were taken, following some camera settings below, with a GarminVIRB ™ Elite:

– Fixed focal length or disabled auto-focus for stable camera interiors

– Large and fixed shutter in order to receive more light

– Low ISO values to reduce noise and improve image quality

The sports camera reduced motion-blur and the wide angle reduced the need for as many images, as it covers wider views. This is especially important for a narrow space indoors. After picking the preferred camera, Mosini Caviezel SA needed to know the optimal image taking plans that would give the best results. In this step, they took images in three different positioning ways.

Test 1: Stand in the middle of the room and turn around while taking images

Images were taken perpendicular to the measured area. Baseline equaling to zero created sharp-angle intersections which led to unsatisfactory results.

Test 2: Across the room along the long side, positioned in middle of the two sides

It is generally difficult to take images crossing a narrow space, and thus this type of configuration was only applied to corridor zones. Area of interest is always at the edge of images where more distortion occurs.

Test 3: Move parallel to the walls

In this configuration, the operator will move around the room and always face perpendicular to the area being measured. Area of interest appears at the center and thus there is less distortion in the images. Among the three walking ways tested, this one is the most favored one.

After picking out the best configuration of walking around the measured space, the following step is to find the optimal camera shooting angles. Here Mosini Caviezel SA compared the actual matching results from various acquisition angles in different survey areas.

Method 1: Back to the wall, shooting at 90 degrees

With this method, 126 images were taken and analyzed. Using this method, the matches in Pix4Dmapper were the most numerous and well-distributed. Moreover, there was less reprojection error (0.2708 pixels) than all the other methods.

Median points of interest per image: 21709

Median of connection points by pairs of images: 2550

Method 2: In the middle of the room, shooting straight forward

81 images acquired with this method were processed. The sharp intersection angles do not generate good matches. This reason of this unsatisfied result was similar to test 2 above. Pixels are obviously distorted on the edges, which leads to less matches among images than method 1, though similar projection errors (0.2655 pixels.)

Median points of interest per image: 21455

Median of connection points by pairs of images: 1756

Method 3: Back to the wall, shooting at 45 degrees

Only 58 images were needed using this method. The method forms the intersection angles slightly larger (better in this sense) than method 2 but less image overlap was obtained. No significant difference in projection errors (0.2469 pixels) was found, but fewer matches were observed. Matches were only found on the ground, and there were nearly no matches on the walls, the area of interest.

Median points of interest per image: 21075

Median of connection points by pairs of images: 1578

Method 4: Back to the wall, shooting at 60 degrees

64 images were taken with this method. It produced slightly better distributed matches compared to method 3, though still concentrated more on the ground. The reprojection error is 0.2266 pixels and the number of total matches are similar to the other methods.

Median points of interest per image: 21080

Median of connection points by pairs of images: 1492

Result Analysis

From the above data acquisition methods, the first method was the most favored one, generating the best matches among images. The only disadvantage of this method is the narrower coverage and the impact from close-object obstructions. More images would be needed using the method 1 acquisition orientation.

In order to obtain precise measurement of the reconstructed result, it is very important to assign correct scales under non-geolocated situations. Mosini Caviezel SA placed targets on the walls, making sure the scales were given in two perpendicular directions to ensure the scale is correct in all directions. Four control points, with local coordinates, were placed around the room, and five check points were assessed as follows.

Accuracy of the entire reconstruction is not as consistent as outdoor cases. However, by assigning the correct scale to the project, general measurements could get more precise.

Advantage of This New Technology

Indoor mapping has been one of the challenging area for photogrammetry. However, it can be an efficient and low-cost way to obtain a precise 2D floor plan using images and Pix4Dmapper Pro.

– Ideal method for reconstructing areas with complicated geometry

– Intuitive and easy-to-use interface, small learning curve

– Affordable license for new equipment investment

– Scalable platform and high-performance customer service

Author: Valérie Luthi

Suggestions from Pix4D

Due to dim light conditions and narrow space, applying photogrammetry indoors is more challenging than outdoors.

Here we proposed several solutions for people who would be interested in giving this a try.

  1. Videos

If the purpose is to obtain a 2D plan, a device with 4K video would give you more continuous results. Pix4Dmapper Pro processes videos and extracts them into still images, and by using the video as input, you can ensure high image overlap. This is the most convenient way for acquiring a simple 2D plan, but the low resolution and large distortion will not give you a nice 3D reconstruction.

  1. Fisheye vs. Perspective Cameras

Perspective cameras will give you better 3D reconstruction output. However, you will need to have some experience with how to acquire images with sufficient overlap in closed area. Fisheye cameras or spherical cameras will make your image acquisition procedure a lot easier, but you will expect noise on the edge induced by the large distortions. If you look for survey-grade accuracy, perspective lenses are still the way though more advanced knowledge and training will be needed.

For users looking for something in between, spherical camera is a good option. Here you may download our sample dataset to experience your first indoor mapping with Pix4Dmapper Pro now!

After Rwanda made waves in the news early last year for allegedly being the first country to approve drone delivery, people payed attention. The country, with its rolling hills and one of the fastest growing economies in Central Africa has already established regulations regarding drones and become a vanguard of sorts for the region.

“My impression is that there is a huge market in Africa at the moment,” said Francesco Nex, assistant professor at the ITC Faculty, University of Twente. “They are growing very fast, with a shortage of surveying and maps available.” Nex recently taught photogrammetry for an applied drone mapping training at INES-Ruhengeri Institute in Rwanda, along with his colleagues Rohan Bennett, and Anton Vrieling.

The Netherlands annually sponsors such continued education events for former students of Dutch institutes, and for 2016 the University of Twente organized a course in Rwanda on the latest drone mapping techniques. “They were very, very, enthusiastic,” Nex said of the 196 applicants, from which they selected 20 students from 8 neighboring countries. “Most of them asked me very specific questions for specific problems. They really knew what they were looking for and had big expectations for this course and the use of drones.”

The training consisted of three parts: making orthophoto maps, 3D reconstructions, and topography models from UAV images in Pix4Dmapper software; mapping applications in land administration, and mapping applications in food security.

The ability to map a crop using multispectral images to better understand its quality has potential to expand the practice of precision agriculture. Gerald Forkuor, lead remote sensing scientist for WASCAL and training attendee, explained that the predominance of subsistence farming in the region means small field sizes, which require a cheap and efficient imaging system to capture them. In addition, “Persistent cloud cover prevents optical sensors from acquiring cloud-free images during the main cropping season,” said Forkuor. “Knowledge of how UAVs can support in reducing such effects is very necessary.”

Leonard Sweta, training attendee and GIS analyst at the Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) in Kenya, stated that learning how to create 3D models and calculate vegetation indices in Pix4Dmapper were the most valuable part of the training. He aims to derive new techniques in land innovation and agriculture from them.

“The idea was to explain how to use UAV images to update maps, for cadastral,” said Nex. “Most of the country has cadastral maps that are very out of date — from flights done sometimes over 20 years ago. There are also big informal settlements. This means there are large areas where you don’t know what’s going on.” Where there are mapping agencies with aircraft in the region, often sensors are not included and need to be rented, creating an impractical and expensive solution.

Mireille Biraro, head of the department of land administration and management at INES-Ruhengeri, attended the course to learn Pix4D’s drone photogrammetry workflow for land administration activities. “In Rwanda, we used aerial images to register land.” Said Biraro. “But those images were captured with a plane. UAVs can be a potential tool to acquire new imagery to update the existing.”

As in Rwanda, drones are beginning to be recognized around the world as a powerful surveying solution. Accessible in terms of price and availability, their sensors quickly capture data that can be turned into valuable topographical and agricultural information in Pix4Dmapper software. Eyes are on Rwanda as it uses, and spreads knowledge of, drone photogrammetry solutions.

To learn more about Pix4D drone photogrammetry, Click Here.

Today, Pix4D’s mobile flight planning app, Pix4Dcapture, introduces new support and features for iOS. The following devices are now compatible with the app:

  • DJI Mavic Pro drone
  • Parrot Skycontroller

All DJI drone pilots can now create circular flight missions, which are ideal for 3D model reconstruction of single buildings or objects. These 360° flight missions are designed to capture every facet and detail of the object being modeled.

Parrot Bebop 2 pilots now have access to the double grid mission, which is ideal for modeling areas with multiple objects of interest: a cluster of buildings, for example. This creates a “double weave” of data capture, which optimizes image overlap and angle.

All grid missions are now even more adjustable: both frontal and side overlap can be defined. Pilots with time or quality constraints gain even more control over their grid missions by tailoring these parameters.  

Download Pix4Dcapture and start flying now!



Demands on fixed wing drones are growing continually. Other than copter drones, fixed wing platforms are generally used to cover large areas (hundreds of hectares) in a short amount of time. Standards on flight endurance and efficient area coverage are growing throughout different industries such as surveying, agriculture, mining or surveillance.

To create a high quality 3D model of a survey area sensor performance and image overlap are essential. Sensor and drone platform have to compensate for the effects of wind and turbulences causing blurred images and low image overlap. From day one QuestUAV has been developing gimballed systems and fine tuning platform stability in order to gain maximum quality and performance from a flight mission. The following sections outline the importance of image quality and overlap and show how a gimballed system can increase efficiency by more than 15 percent.

Drone-Based Maps and 3D Models

Image overlap is crucial…

When mapping an area with a drone or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), the UAV will have to fly and photograph the survey area in a grid-like pattern ensuring that every feature on the ground (e.g. a tree or a building) is “seen” in multiple photographs. For the generation of 3D models these photographs have to have sufficient overlap in flight direction and between grid lines (side overlap). Photogrammetry software providers like Pix4D or Agisoft Photoscan generally recommend an overlap of 75% frontal and 60% side overlap.

Sensor choice and gimbal influence data quality…

Besides image overlap, GSD (Ground Sampling Distance) is crucial for modelling an object in high detail. Hence, a good sensor and a UAV system which enables a stable flight and continuous overlap are essential for the generation of high quality maps and 3D models, especially in windy and turbulent conditions. Image sharpness and overlap can significantly deteriorate when the UAV is pushed around in moving air. Therefore, a sensor gimbal might become crucial for data quality, spatial accuracies and hence for mission success. Various QuestUAV missions have proven that a gimballed system compensates for effects like blurred or oblique images and lack of overlap.

Stereo-photogrammetry to extract 3D positions…

Once a feature is photographed from different angles stereo-photogrammetry can be applied after flight during the post-processing phase. Common points are identified in each image and a line of sight (or ray) can be constructed from the camera location to the point on the object. The intersection of these rays determines the three-dimensional location of the point and in combination a 3D model of the surveyed area.


QuestUAV Gimballed Systems

The sensor is the heart of a UAV and depending on which sensor is flown it will determine what data a UAV is capable of collecting. Ground Sampling Distance (GSD), image sharpness and noise level are all dependent on the sensor chosen for a flight mission. As an example the QuestUAV 200 Surveyor carries a Sony A6000 camera which captures very high detail with a 24.3 effective megapixel APS-C sensor allowing to acquire data down to 2.9cm GSD at 400ft. The Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor ensures an extremely fast performance, sharp image quality and low noise images, even in low light conditions.

The major advantage of a gimbal is simply to allow the sensor to continuously point directly towards the ground (nadir view), while the aircraft itself is manoeuvring around in yaw, pitch and roll. Especially in high winds a compensation for the movement is essential to keep the image overlap required for photogrammetry processing. If there is no gimbal the general solution is to increase side overlap. However, increasing the side overlap causes the aircraft to fly more grid lines and turns and hence reduces area coverage and flight efficiency. Overlap recommendations by photogrammetry software providers are generally around 75-80% frontal and 60-65% side overlap.

QuestUAV Gimbals can reduce the image overlap to 40% and still guarantee the data quality.

Various studies with a QuestUAV 200 Surveyor and QuestUAV 100 DATAhawk have proven that a gimballed system allows reducing the image overlap from 65 to 40 percent and still guaranteeing enough overlap for photogrammetric processing and data quality even in high winds. By reducing the amount of grid lines and aircraft turns the already impressive ground coverage of a QuestUAV system is further increased. As shown in the figure below the amount of grid lines is reduced from 13 to 10 and the total path length from 10.1 km to 8.3km – a decrease of 18 percent!

When compared to an orthomsaic based on 65 percent overlap the 40 percent overlap orthomosaic is equally good in terms of image matches and data quality. The number of overlapping images was in both cases continuously higher than five for each pixel of the orthomosaic resulting in an excellent 3D model of the surveyed area.


QuestUAV has proven that a sensor gimbal significantly improves the already outstanding ground coverage of a QuestUAV drone. The QuestUAV sensor gimbal compensates for the effects of wind and turbulences causing blurred images and low image overlap. By using a gimbal an area can be flown with only 40 percent side overlap without reduction in data quality. Hence, mission efficiency is increased by more than 15 percent.

Guest Contribution by QuestUAV