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Drone Mapping, Photogrammetry and Landscape Design

Some fun and innovative technologies have come forward over the past few years that have greatly enhanced our design process.  The first is something called photogrammetry, which uses advanced computer software to triangulate millions of points across many different photographs in order to generate a virtual 3D model.  Photogrammetry has been around for a very long time and with the advances in digital photography, 3D models of everyday objects have been easy to generate with a few dozen well though out photographs. Autodesk 123D catch is a free software that can generate these models. 

 Simple photogrammetry example showing camera positions

Simple photogrammetry example showing camera positions

Now that simple drones are available to the public, we can do the same thing but on a much larger scale. With a drone, we can get the necessary perspective and angles of a property from the sky. 

 Arial Photographs

Arial Photographs

 Arial point cloud showing drone photo postitions

Arial point cloud showing drone photo postitions

There are many photogrammetry software programs available, but Pix4d is a company which has set it sights specifically on mapping and surveying. This program utilizes the GPS coordinates from the drone's photographs and enables us to obtain very precise measurements as well as highly accurate elevations and topography of the site.  In the past, we spent hours and hours--sometimes days-- drafting and taking elevations on site.  Now we can send a drone up for half an hour and we have all the information we need. In addition, we have aerial reference photos. These images, plus the detailed 3D model, make any return site visits unnecessary. 

3D site design elements

While there are several other less expensive programs, most do not take advantage of the GPS coordinates from the drone.  The software we use to work with the generated 3D models and then later create the design is 3DS Max.  With the combination of a drone, photogrammetry, rendering in 3DS Max, and digital painting in Photoshop, we are able to create stunningly beautiful designs as well as remarkably accurate topography plans and site drafts. 

 3D Rendering of Design Concepts

3D Rendering of Design Concepts

 Finished Topography Plan

Finished Topography Plan

Many high end surveyors across the world are turning to this technology, we also believe there are tremendous advantages to the Landscape Design process.