3D Modelling by Drone

3D Modelling by Drone

Drones enable us to capture details, intricacies, and beauty of a structure not easily seen from the ground level but how is it done?

What type of images are captured?

A drone is sent over the structure capturing regular nadir imagery (photographs captured from directly above looking down). If you’re making a 3D model of relatively flat terrain, an overhead flight might be sufficient to make a good model. However, if you’re modelling a structure with steep, vertical or concave sides, overhead images don’t capture a good view of the sides of the structure. For this reason, flying orbital flights around the structure capturing oblique imagery (photographs captured from less than a vertical angle) will improve the quality of the model.

When is the best time to capture images?

One of the most important steps in using a drone to make a 3D model is to pick a good time to fly. Besides avoiding high winds or rain, it’s also important to pick a time with good lighting.

An overcast day is best because there aren’t strong shadows and ideally sometime around mid-day where there are the shortest shadows possible.

What are the commercial applications for 3D models?

Construction sites commonly use 3D models to evaluate the topography of a site, identify earthmoving needs, and to monitor progress of projects against project schedules. Other industries using drone-based 3D modelling include civil engineering, architecture and mining.

There are also significant benefits of using drone-based 3D models in environmental conservation, whether that be to assist with coastal erosion using snapshot in time comparisons, flood prevention though the monitoring of inland waterways or topographical landscape models.

What are the benefits of a 3D Model?

A 3D model is far more appealing visually than a 2D model and perhaps the easiest way to see how is to simply compare both formats designs, but in business some of the benefits are:

Better for marketing and project approvals

The experience of going through a 3D model is more compelling and satisfying to a prospect than viewing a 2D drawing. The vivid imagery lingers in the prospect’s mind for a longer period of time and you stand a better chance of winning the customer, the project approval rate in construction business is quicker when a 3D model is used, for example.

Easy re-modeling and corrections using Point Clouds

In a 3D model it is easier to see the impact on the overall design when minor or major changes are made, this can help in finalizing the design without much cost and post-construction cost-incurring changes or corrections. It is also accurate as the end construction shapes-up to the conceived output as deduced from the 3D model. 3D models consist of Point Clouds which are large data sets consisting of individual geo-referenced points which have been captured using the drone’s LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) laser scanners.

Impact on project execution

With a clear design it is easier for the construction engineers to complete the project at low costs and as per the plan.

These technologies can have a dramatic impact on project execution, including:

  • Elimination of field interferences
  • Less rework
  • Increased productivity
  • Fewer requests for information
  • Fewer change orders
  • Less cost growth
  • A decrease in time from start of construction to facility turnover.


A 3D design can clearly show the physical dimensions of the objects and its distance in relation with other objects in the total layout. This will tremendously help customers see and adjust arrangements of objects based on their sizes to achieve varied objectives like space, movement problems, room size corrections, and so on.

Fewer instructions and no language barriers

Unlike 2D designs which may need clear instructions on how to deduce design information, 3D designs are almost instruction-less and without any language barriers. It is natural for any human to understand 3D design and experience the virtual reality it creates.

It is always easier and more beneficial when things get closer to reality.


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