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3D view of a model city

Technology

THE first in a series of detailed and highly accurate interactive 3D models of Australian cities has been released in South Australia.

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Aerial mapping company Aerometrex took thousands of high-resolution photographs from a helicopter over Adelaide's central business district to develop the interactive city model.

Aerometrex aims to create similar 3D models of other major Australian cities and sell them to city councils, state governments, planners, architects, marketing companies and developers.

“We're already starting to engage with some agencies with the Adelaide model,” Aerometrex Technical Director David Byrne said.

“We've captured the imagery for Brisbane and the Gold Coast and they're just going through processing at the moment.

“In spring, once we get some better weather, we'd be looking at capturing Melbourne and Sydney.”

Byrne said taking higher resolution photographs and more of them helped achieve a greater level of detail than other 3D modelling, such as Google Maps.

He said the use of automatic processing software rather than traditional hand digitised methods also allowed for greater detail.

“Using a helicopter as opposed to a fixed-wing aircraft provides a much more flexible platform for capturing imagery so we can make sure we get into every little gap between tight buildings and so forth, which often other models struggle with,” he said.

“We're using automatic processing so if the object is in the imagery it tends to get modelled as long as it's stationary. So we're modelling everything from street furniture to trees and parked cars – it's a very comprehensive data set and much more life like.

“We struggle to know of any data sets that exist to cover such an area in such a high level of detail so we consider ourselves to be world leaders with this sort of technology.”

Bynre said the models could be used in conjunction with compatible software to allow developers, architects or town planners to place a building in a location on the map to get a feel for its impact on the streetscape.

“Then you can start doing things like casting shadows to see what impact it has on its surrounds, you can do line of sight to see what the view is like from a particular location,” he said.

More than 25,000 aerial photographs were taken to create the model of the South Australian capital.

“We take all that imagery and tie it all together using common features from one photograph to the next. We also collect a lot of GPS ground control of a lot of known features, we then control that data set to the real world,” Byrne said.

“Using intersecting rays of light we create lots of 3D points then we join all of those points together to create a mesh and we place the original imagery back over that mesh to give it a realistic look.

“We also do quite a bit of manual work to tidy it up, for example, we removed all the moving cars on the roads.”

The Adelaide-based company was engaged to create a 3D model of Philadelphia to help with planning ahead of Pope Francis' visit to the American city in September last year.

“We hope to engage some more USA interest on the back of that going forward and of course we also do a bit in New Zealand as well.”

Aerometrex's core business in aerial photography stretches across many industries from engineering to sports broadcasting, planning and mining exploration.

Byrne said 3D modelling was becoming an increasingly important part of the business as technology moved beyond traditional 2D imagery.

 “We've made sure we're right up with the latest technology and providing state of the art products to set ourselves up for the future as demand for this 3D information grows,” he said.

“Most of the work we do is project based so people engage us for their specific area and we go and capture it and provide the data for them but for the capital cities or the central business districts we see multiple resale potential.”

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story.

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