Oct. 18, 2014 | By Alec

We see wonderful examples of the many recreational and electronic applications of 3D printing surface online every day, which is hardly surprising given the obvious advantages 3D printing technology brings to these areas. But did you know that this technology carries equal potential for the industrial sector?

French company Drones Imaging reminds of this with an innovative way to quickly and accurately generate 3D models of landscapes. They're effectively using 3D printing to revolutionize the very important science of Photogrammetry. For those of you who don't know, that's the science of making measurements from photographs. This is especially useful for recovering the exact positions of certain locations, and has a wide range of industrial applications, like mining, archaeology and construction, as well as various military functions.

This is traditionally a very time-consuming and difficult science, the CEO of Drones Imaging Loïc Hussenet explained. Hussenet was previously working for the military as an analyst in imagery intelligence. In this position, he often worked to prepare military operations through the use of satellite imagery.

This was reportedly took a very long time. Workflows were complex and prone to mistakes and misinterpretations. 'At the time, we built models with polystyrene by photo interpretation. Later, in the mid-2000s with the advent of software such as Sketchup, preparation of special operations has been naturally scanned,' Hussenet explained.

Fortunately, the advent of software solutions have greatly streamlined this science. Through their high-performance computing abilities, photogrammetry now consists of quickly generating complex models of landscapes. It's also become increasingly capable of avoiding the human errors that traditionally wreaked havoc in this field.

However, Drones Imaging have taken things another step further, but integrating drone technology, 3D printing and photogrammetry into a single concept. Not only does this allow them to quickly capture aerial data using drones, 3D printing enables them to quickly create accurate models of the landscapes in question. Not only does it make photogrammetry far easier, it also has a wide range of industrial, communicative and advertising purposes.

Their unmanned aerial vehicles (or UAVs) are capable of automatically generating several million accurate points, and integrating these into photogrammetry is quickly replacing many traditional approaches and manual GPS routines that are taking place elsewhere.

3D printing, meanwhile, offers an entirely different range of options to photogrammetry. Working with Formlabs hardware, Drones Imaging have proven to be capable of making 3D prints of their photogrammetric results, as seen in the various photos above. Based on data collected at an altitude of 700m, 3D printers were created that meet all the requirement of photogrammetry.

And the results speak for themselves. Even on this 12 x 8 cm resin print, all the geographical data is accurately represented. While based on a subject of 1000 x 700 meters, even details such as forests, roads, tracks and materials can accurately be printed.

These are still experiments for now, as further testing will be required to enhance the aesthetic appearances of these printed objects. Also, printing size is still a point of concern, as the Formlabs 3D printer used for this particular project isn't capable of producing areas large enough to be using in mining operations or anything like that.

The results remain, however, promising. Perhaps entire industries are set to benefit from this 3D printing innovation in the near future?

For more on Drone Imaging's activities, take a look at this short YouTube clip:

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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