Feb 8, 2016 | By Tess

Cloud-based drone software DroneDeploy, used primarily for creating detailed and accurate 3D terrain and architectural models, has now made it possible to turn footage captured by a drone into a ready-to-print 3D model.

Ian Smith, Sales and Marketing Manager for DroneDeploy, explains the process of turning drone images into a 3D printed object on the software company’s blog, and uses his own childhood home in Houston, Texas as an example of how and what to 3D print.

The first step in creating a 3D printed object based on drone footage is of course capturing the actual images. For the best results, Smith suggests flying your drone around the setting or building you want to 3D print while taking photos at a 45 degree angle to the ground to focus more on the actual terrain than the sky or surroundings. For his own childhood home, Smith took a total of 146 images, which were captured with a DJI Inspire 1 drone—it should be noted that DroneDeploy is compatible with any drone so the DJI model is not requisite. The DroneDeploy app will also program a flight path based on your specifications.

image taken from 45 degree angle

From there you simply have to upload the images captured by your drone to the DroneDeploy software where they will be automatically converted into a digital 3D model. For the conversion process, DroneDeploy reports being able to process the images and turn them into a 3D model, an orthomosaic, and a digital surface model in under 200 minutes.

Once you have your 3D model of the terrain or structure you want to 3D print—you can export a zipped .OBJ file directly from the DroneDeploy app—you simply have to put the file through a slicer, obtain an .STL file and send the file to a 3D printer. If you do not have access to a 3D printer yourself, Smith suggests using 3D Hubs 3D printing service, which allows you to choose from a number of different printing options such as what type of material you’d like to use and whether you want your object additively manufactured in color. For 3D printing in color, the color image layer is included in the zipped .OBJ file provided by the DroneDeploy app.

For his own 3D print of his childhood home, Smith printed on a small scale in full color out of a sandstone material. He explains, “I chose sandstone because even though it’s a bit more expensive and brittle than other printing materials, the color and finer details will show up better.”

This technology, as evidenced by Ian Smith, can provide makers with a way of creating sentimental keepsakes, but can also provide a unique service for more industrial purposes as well. DroneDeploy, which has been used by various farmers to optimize their crop yields, can now offer both digital and physical models of agricultural terrain.

If you want to check out DroneDeploy’s software or app a trial version can be downloaded for free via their website.



Posted in 3D Printing Apps



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