Photogrammetry and Why It Matters to Homebuilders

Creating 3D models using drones means better, faster surveying during site development. Photogrammetry is becoming an essential part of construction workflows.
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You probably already know what surveying is and understand the methods behind it. Land surveying is the method of determining the terrestrial or three-dimensional positions of points and the distances and angles between them. And you also know that it’s expensive and time consuming, due to inefficient methods and equipment. 

While traditional surveying has its place, the construction industry is rapidly adopting drones to conduct fast, accurate, surveys at a fraction of the cost. It’s a common misconception that drones are only capturing images. In fact, drones are capable of capturing detailed 3D data using photogrammetry. Let’s dive into what that means and how it works. 

What is photogrammetry?

Photogrammetry is the science of measuring distance and gathering data about an object by analyzing its images taken from at least two locations. Modern photogrammetry techniques, using drones, have made it possible to capture aerial images of land areas and triangulate the images into 3D by plotting points onto an X, Y, and Z-axis. In construction and land development, drones are used to capture images to generate 3D maps of construction sites.

Hardware and Software in Drone Photogrammetry

Equipment needs for photogrammetry are relatively simple and include:

  • A high-resolution camera mounted on a drone
  • Ground control points or a ground control station
  • Photogrammetry processing software 

How to Obtain Accurate Data for Photogrammetry 

To capture high-quality data, it’s important to use an experienced drone pilot to minimize errors and avoid having to fly the project more than once to correct errors. As the drone pilot plans and controls the flight, the drone moves back and forth in a grid pattern over the survey area, capturing the overlapping images of the project area. The overlap helps to create additional points to enable the photogrammetry software to match the same points on the images to form a precise 3D map. 

How Photogrammetry Software Works 

Photogrammetry software takes the captured images and geotags them with longitude, latitude, and altitude information captured by the drone. The software maps the geotagged images according to the tag information. In producing 2D maps, the software stitches these overlapping images into one unified continuous map. In creating 3D models, the software estimates the height and depth and combines the overlapping parts of drone images into 3D models. 

Photogrammetry software can produce 2D maps or orthomosaics of surveyed areas that provide an accurate visual of up-to-date site conditions. In the case of 3D models, photogrammetry software creates a point cloud, a 3D frame resulting from the interconnected points calculated from the images by the software. The engine then stitches the captured images together and stretches them out on top of the point cloud frame. 

So what does it mean for homebuilding?

Homebuilders, land developers, and construction professionals need the data provided by photogrammetry to improve workflows, communicate with their project stakeholders, and operate efficiently, but managing a drone program is often too time consuming. In today’s market, most teams don’t have the resources to divert from more essential construction management tasks. Additionally, using most photogrammetry software requires training and expertise that most professionals don’t have (or have time to acquire). This learning curve prohibits builders from incorporating drones and 3D mapping into their workflows. 

Fortunately, outsourcing your drone program is an easy and affordable option. TraceAir is a turnkey solution for residential and commercial construction that provides drone flights, photogrammetric data processing, and 3D mapping software in one package. Our platform is easy to use and empowers the entire project team with data whether they’re in the field, trailer, or office. Contact our team to see it in action.

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