How architects can employ photogrammetry

The following tutorial covers how to create a 3D environment from drone images in RealityCapture and how to create a final visualization in Lumion software.

For architects it is important to show their design of a new house or a building in its future setting, and not just in isolation. They often make use of satellite height models and images, and 3D basic shapes from OpenStreetMap, an open source database of streets and buildings. In their CAD software, they then add basic shapes of trees and people, often just as a flat plane with an image on it.

Using a specialized software program Lumion, they can give the visual appearance a boost using realistic 3D models of trees, people, cars, furniture etc. To show the clients how they can also improve the visual appearance of surrounding houses and buildings, Pjotr van Schothorst, a co-founder and innovation projects director at Lumion, has performed some tests using a consumer drone and RealityCapture.

In his previous projects, he created 3D models of a beach area with some dunes, a new spacious housing area for a new villa design, and an area of a city where a 14-floor building was to be renovated. For those projects, the drone flew a grid across an area of 300x300m several times, each time with the camera pointed in a different direction, to capture each house from several directions.

The drone was controlled by Drone Harmony, an app that calculates photo positions to get a 60% overlapping area among the adjacent pictures. However, a common feedback coming from architects from various countries, was focused on the legislative aspect of acquiring a license for flying a drone across urban areas, and most architects were reluctant to obtain such a license.

It was also not allowed everywhere to fly a drone under a control of an app. It had to be flown manually, within sight-line distance to the operator.

Therefore, during this new test, the drone stayed within the perimeters of a private property, flown by hand. The used drone also had better lens and sensor. This resulted in a higher quality 3D model of the surrounding houses.

Using the excellent editing tools which RealityCapture has to offer, all the trees, plants, cars, and streetlights have been removed. In Lumion, he added new 3D trees and other objects of the same type and size of the real ones.

“RealityCapture provided an invaluable tool, with an easy workflow, great editing and optimization tools, and good quality textured 3D models as a result. “ (Pjotr van Schothorst, co-founder and innovation projects director at Lumion)