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Drone 3D Models – What They are and How to Use Them!

3D models created from aerial images are becoming a more widely used tool in construction, virtual reality, gas lines, oil rigging, terrestrial data retrieval, and many other fields! So what is it, and how do drones do it?


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Viewing from multiple angles is one of the many benefits of making a 3D model from drone data!

What is a Drone 3D Model? A Drone 3D Model is a digital representation of an object, usually created using specialized software, that can be viewed and manipulated in three dimensions. These models can be used to obtain information and measurements such as height, depth, length, area, and volume with incredible accuracy! These models are usually presented to clients with a user-friendly interface and are fully interactive so clients can take measurements straight from the model. These models are also able to be exported as nearly any file type, which makes it easy to import into software you are already familiar with.

How are 3D Models Created?

3D models can be created using a variety of techniques and software programs, depending on the intended use of the model and the complexity of the object being modeled, but let's start with the first step! First things first, the drone pilot will start off by placing Ground Control Points (GCPs) around the area being scanned. Ground Control Points are an aerial 3D

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modeler's best friend. They are black and white squares that, once placed on the ground, will serve as reference points for the software to better stitch the 3D model together. They do this by comparing the drone's reported position to the known location of the GCP, the pilot can then determine any errors or offsets in the drone's position information. Once the error is known, it can be applied as a correction factor, by adjusting the drone's position information to be more accurate. This can be especially useful in applications where precise measurements are critical. This process is known as "geo-referencing". These GCPs significantly reduce the margin of error and allow for better, and more accurate, measurements for the 3D model. The pilot will then plan a route for the drone to fly around the object being scanned so

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that the pilot doesn't miss a single inch. If the pilot isn't through and misses a spot, that spot in the 3D model will be missing or wildly morphed! The drone will then proceed to take a series of overlapping pictures. The more pictures there are, the less holes you'll find in the 3D model. The overlapping of images is important because the computer uses information from each picture to get references for where things are located. On average, to plot out a simple 1,000 SQ FT house, we would have about 3,000 pictures to stitch together!

WHAT IS AERIAL PHOTOGRAMMETRY? We can't mention an aerial 3D model without talking about aerial photogrammetry! Aerial photogrammetry is the process of turning the pictures captured by a drone, into a 3-D model. This is what happens after the images are taken and the pilot goes home. Aerial photogrammetry is a technique used to extract information from photographs taken from an aircraft or drone. It involves capturing overlapping images of a specific area and then using specialized software to recreate those images in a 3D space. Sometimes people will even do this by hand! The way photogrammetry works is by looking at photos of subjects taken from multiple locations and then triangulates the locations of each point on the subject. Taking more photos of your subject makes the triangulation process more accurate. Creating an accurate 3D model requires many images to plot location points in 3D space. Drones also have GPS and onboard sensors which record the drone's location in the data of each photo. By tracking the latitude, longitude, and altitude of the drone in the metadata of the images, the accuracy of 3D modeling becomes unparalleled.

This information can then be used to create detailed maps, 3D models, 2D models, orthomosaics, topographic maps, and other visualizations of the area, which can be used for a variety of purposes! Aerial photogrammetry can also be used to monitor changes in the landscape over time, and to detect and analyze natural disasters, environmental changes, and other phenomena. Actually, this information can be used for many things! Many Uses of a Drone 3D Model:


Now you know what a 3D model is and how drone pilots use it, but how is it useful? There are so many applications and even more to come! As these 3D models become more accurate and software starts expanding, the limits of 3D drone models will be sky high! No pun intended! You don't want to know about future uses though, so let us show you what you can do with these 3D models RIGHT NOW!



  1. Surveying and mapping: Aerial photogrammetry can be used to create detailed maps and 3D models of land, buildings, and other structures. This information can be used for construction, urban planning, and other applications. It can also be used to create digital elevation models (DEMs) and digital terrain models (DTMs), which can be used for land use planning, site design, and other applications.

  2. The construction industry: 3D models can be used in the construction industry to plan, design, and manage construction projects. The data collected from the drones is so accurate, that it can even be used to calculate area, volume, and distance measurements! The models can be used to create visualizations and animations that can be used to communicate project plans to stakeholders and to identify potential issues before construction begins.

  3. Police and firefighters: Using 3D models makes it possible to recreate crime scenes and record evidence to create a clear picture for jury members and investigators. 3D models can also be used to create detailed maps of an area before, during, and after an emergency, such as a natural disaster, to help emergency responders navigate the area and to assess damage.

  4. Aerial Inspection: 3D models can be used to inspect industrial facilities, buildings, and infrastructure such as bridges, roads, and transmission lines. Drones can take high-resolution images and videos of objects, which can be used to create a detailed 3D model of the object. This can be used for inspection and maintenance planning, and also for identifying potential safety hazards.

  5. Detect Changes to Landscape: Photogrammetry can be used to track changes in an area over time, by comparing images taken at different times. This can be used to monitor construction projects, natural resource management, and other applications.

  6. The agricultural industry: Being able to perform a quick 3D model of a field could provide data about elevation, plant density, and temperature ranges. It can also show areas of structural damage or potentially hazardous materials.

  7. Real estate and architectural design: 3D models can be used to create visualizations of new buildings, houses, and other structures. The models can be used to show potential buyers or renters what the finished product will look like and also to show the architectural design for approvals and permits.

  8. Environmental monitoring: 3D models can be used to monitor changes in vegetation, soil erosion, and other environmental factors. This can be used to track the progress of reforestation efforts, identify areas of erosion, and monitor other environmental conditions.

  9. Archaeological: 3D models can be used to map and study ancient ruins, artifacts, and other archaeological sites.

  10. Gaming industry: 3D models created by drones can be used to create detailed and accurate models of real-world environments for use in video games, allowing for a more realistic and immersive gaming experience.

  11. Urban Planning: Drones can be used to create a 3D model of an urban area, which can be used for planning and development, as well as for traffic and transportation studies, and simulations.

  12. Film & Media Industry: 3D models can be used for Film and media production, for creating visual effects, animation, and virtual reality experiences. Conclusion: In conclusion, drone 3D models are a powerful tool in many different industries. They provide an accurate and detailed representation of a property or building, allowing for better planning and visualization. By using 3D models, professionals can save time and money by identifying potential issues before they become a problem on the construction site. With the advancements in technology, it is easy to see why drone 3D models are becoming more and more popular among professionals. There's no doubt that it's becoming more important for industry leaders to understand the benefits and limitations of using drone 3D models in their industry and how to use them effectively. By doing so, you can ensure that you get the most out of your investment and make informed decisions for your business! Bibliography: "What is a Drone 3D Model?", Flyability.com, 2022 https://www.flyability.com/drone-3d-model "Aerial Photogrammetry – Create 3D Models With Drone Photos", Stetson Doggett, 2022 https://www.dronegenuity.com/aerial-photogrammetry/ "Here’s Why Drone 3D Scans Save You Time & Money", David Daly, 2022 https://consortiq.com/uas-resources/3d-scans-a-new-dimension-to-drone-use-cases "How to Create a 3D Models from Drone Images with DJI Mini 3 Pro", Tech Drone Media, 2022 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1Akt30BddQ "Missing Vessel Located in Early AM Utilizing Drone Infrared", Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue News Release, 2022 https://www.ckfr.org/missing-vessel-located-in-early-am-utilizing-drone-infrared/ "What is Spatial Data?", www.safe.com, 2022 https://www.safe.com/what-is/spatial-data/ "What Is An Orthomosaic Map? (Answered in under 100 words)", www.flyproaerial.com, 2022 https://www.flyproaerial.com/blog/what-is-an-orthomosaic-map-answered-in-under-100-words "Ground Control Points", www.usgs.gov, 2022 https://www.usgs.gov/landsat-missions/ground-control-points www.dronedeploy.com www.pix4d.com

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