AECCafe Guest Blog
Mallary White, Solution Specialist – Architect Microdesk
Mallary is a Solutions Specialist with Microdesk’s Architecture Team based out of our Los Angeles office. She focuses on providing technical support, training, implementation, and consulting services to Microdesk’s Architectural and Media & Entertainment clients.
Getting Ahead in the Clouds – UAV Scanning for Strengthening and Re-building Cities
July 20th, 2015 by Mallary White, Solution Specialist – Architect Microdesk
Despite what you were taught in school, having your head in the clouds, and start your next project there, may be the best place to start. UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), Quadcopters, Eyes Spying in the Sky, or Drones, as they are better known, may sound like something that belongs in a sci-fi movie, but the truth is, they are becoming easily accessible and we should be taking advantage of them to help us strengthen and re-build our cities. Remotely operated, UAVs allow architects and engineers access to dangerous and remote environments, permitting them to make assessments that they never could before.
Photogrammetry is a proven concept which struggled to take off in the 1970’s when equipment was clunky and expensive. In the modern age of fast processing, mass storage and lightweight equipment, the process of deriving geometry from 2D photographs is making a comeback. By combining various tools, including UAVs, cameras, laser scanners and some more traditional survey tools, we are able to digitally recreate virtually anything you can see and even some things you can’t.
The processes available introduce a level of safety and decision making in the built environment that we have not known before. In the course of a 15-20 minute flight, we can survey half a city block. Once back on land, automated software programs such as Autodesk Recap, can produce a rough point cloud model within just a few hours. With some office-based processing, from which measurements and assessment can be made, a survey complete with point clouds and 3D geometry can be created. If necessary, further field measurement can be collected using a laser scanner; with integration of the two data sets, using advanced processing techniques, a photo realistic model with an overall accuracy of ~3mm can be achieved. This level of accuracy is typically useful for analysis of deformation and performance in existing buildings.
On a larger, more general scale, it can often be too time consuming, labor intensive or costly to manually measure a project site including landscaping, objects, and surrounding buildings during the pre-bid stages of a project. Even more problematic, the site could be simply too dangerous to enter during the aftermath of a natural disaster. By utilizing drones, cameras and lasers, we are also able to collect information about topography, buildings, and conditions quickly and accurately. It’s a fairly simple process to take that data and create computerized 3D replicas for documentation and research.
Reconnaissance models can be used to accurately survey a site to pinpoint its breaking point or as the foundation for creating new types of topography, buildings, and objects. These tools help designers and engineers ensure that new designs integrate easily within the confines of an existing environment, strategize for repairs and stabilization, and accurately replicate real elements to serve as the groundwork for your 3D visualization.
Reality Capture and UAVs make the inaccessible, accessible, and provide comfort and confidence in the unknown. Ultimately they can be the driving force behind a great rehabilitation project. As we look forward to how we can better capture site information and build precise site models, it’s amazing to know that the sky is the limit.