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Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Advances in modern technology mean that it is now possible to record photographs and/or video from unmanned aerial vehicles in a way that would have only previously been possible from a full-size fixed wing aircraft or helicopter. Miniaturisation of digital cameras, stabilisation units and the remotely controlled aircraft themselves (under 3kg) means that high resolution pictures can be taken up to 400ft in the air without the need for an airborne pilot. Here are some examples of the ways in which UAVs are being put to use.

Oblique Aerial Photography

The simplest form of photography involves capturing a single shot of a subject (in up to 4K resolution). The photographs or video can be used for publicity, monitoring progress of a project during construction or for future reference.

Rectified Photography (Photogrammetry)

By stitching overlapping photographs together it is possible to create a larger 2D plan. The time and spatial location of each photograph is logged using the real-time GPS information acquired by the UAV during its flight. Additionally, Ground Control Points (GCPs) can also be visibly marked at known positions on the ground so that they can used later to orientate and scale the mosaic. Alternatively, physical features on the ground can be surveyed afterwards using traditional methods to "fit" the mosaic to the real-world.

3D CAD Models

Photogrammetry can also be used to create a 3D image of a structure or feature. Software can be used to "explode" the photograph into its component pixels to create a "cloud model" which can be used to check/verify designs or as a record of construction.

Aerial Surveys

The "Inspire 1" UAV is capable of transmitting a live video feed back to the ground where it can be viewed in real-time by a second operator (who can also operate the pan and tilt of the camera independantly of the UAV pilot). Recording in 4k resolution, it is possible to inspect inaccessible structures without the need for scaffolding, man-riders or cherry-pickers. The video is recorded onboard the UAV and can also be viewed again later.

Building Elevation Surveys

Using rectified imagery of a buildings facade, a 2D elevation drawing can be produced.