Article courtesy of Wendy Dessler, The Blog Frog
Nobody wants to be struck with a disaster, natural or otherwise. Mother nature has other plans, and sometimes things are out of our control. By creating 3D models of disaster-hit regions, even in the most remote of areas, we can all work towards a stronger future. In the past, learning more about these regions would be risky and potentially dangerous. There were no ways to create accurate models, especially when it’s impossible to access a region directly after a disastrous event.
Thanks to new technology, it’s now possible to create 3D models safely and accurately. Not only are models assisting with rapid damage assessments after extreme events, but it’s helping to make the world a safer place for people of all backgrounds. Research can be conducted on the damage after things go wrong, and this research helps put stronger systems in place that protect even the most remote parts of the world. This means more people around the globe are able to get the help they need when they need it most.
How exactly is aerial data being used to form these models? This guide will discuss 5 tips for creating accurate models without risking the safety of researchers. The world might never be disaster-proof, but it can be one step closer. Investing money and time into this type of technology is one of the best ways to deliver aid to people in remote, under-assisted areas.
Community Impact of Aerial Data
Aerial data used to require expensive equipment like airplanes. By attaching cameras to the underside of jets, scientists and cartographers were able to create depictions of regions. There was a lot of room for error when operating such large technology, and it was impossible to create clear measurements. When disasters would strike remote areas, there was limited chance to help safely. This left people without valuable resources.
Today, most aerial data is conducted via drones. These allow more freedom and safety. Not only is it easier to control a small drone, but it eliminates the need for humans to directly involve themselves in disaster areas. Researchers are able to operate the drones from a safe distance while still maintaining control, and that means more people can recieve aid.
This aerial data can be used for a number of things from ongoing research to surveying the damage. They can even airlift resources for people who are unable to get them otherwise. Remote regions in the past were particularly challenging to study, and this meant limited progress with things like disaster response and infrastructure. With drones, there are fewer obstacles. Now that you understand why this technology is so valuable, let’s talk about the best practices.
1. Wait for Neutral Lighting
When you’re taking photographs intended to be used for measurements and data, you need them to be clear. The best time of day to take pictures is when the light is even. Avoid harsh lighting, and avoid shows. Cloudy days are often the best since the overcast lighting evenly lights all objects. Natural light also makes it easier to identify local people and others who might need immediate assistance. If you must operate your drone in unfavorable lighting, do your best to gather several shots to make up for any shadows.
2. Avoid Solid Patches of Color
When you input your photography into a software for modeling, it will not be able to recognize any unique points in large areas of solid color. These are seen as nothing but large holes in the 3D mesh. You can fill these manually, but that leaves room for error. If possible, look for differences in the landscape to shoot around or any objects that can break up these solid sections.
3. Use the Manual Camera Function
Whether you’re using your own camera or a drone-specific camera, make sure you edit the settings. There is a temptation to use automatic settings so you’ll get high-quality images no matter the lighting or angle, but this is a mistake. Use the manual function so you can ensure the focus and exposure is the same throughout your series of photos. This way, your software will have an easier time recognizing consistent points no matter the photo. You don’t usually have time to return to the spot a second time, so you need your images to appear correctly the first time when people are waiting for help.
4. Take Photos of All Angles
When photographic landscapes, it’s hard to capture all the individual angles. Follow a clear path with consistent photos throughout. Do not leave gaps in your captured images. Analyze the particular angles prior to beginning your aerial session, and make sure you capture them all. Any gaps in your angle coverage will result in lower-quality results in your modeling software, and it will be harder to utilize these photos for aid.
5. Research Different Modeling Software
Not all modeling software is created equal. For the best, most accurate photogrammetry software, consider this web site. Depending on your experience, you might want to start with a simplified software until you understand the basic principles. 3D modeling involves a lot of trial and error. It might take a few different sessions to get the model just right. Accurate measurements are worth the extra practice, especially since the wellbeing of populations are on the line.
3D modeling offers a new way to solve some of the world’s most challenging problems. With more opportunities for research and study, we can rely on 3D models to provide insight into disaster areas around the globe. More importantly, we can use this research to prevent these disasters from happening again to to bring aid to those who need it most.
Thanks to aerial photography, we have more safety protocols and the freedom to conduct more research than ever before. These tips above will help you put your photogrammetry skills to best use so you can help others quickly. From lighting to software choice, there is a lot that goes into creating accurate, reliable models that change the world one image at a time.