Mapping is much different than it was even just a few years ago. Three-dimensional models are the new standard, improving upon the traditional two-dimensional renderings and blueprints.

Drones are a big part of this revolution and are giving everyone from architects to surveyors unprecedented access to landscapes, structures and worksites. Irene Kwan, Microdrones' Sales Manager for Southeast Asia, joined Propelling to explain how construction companies and municipalities are taking a new look at the way things have been done in the past.


Listen to Kwan explain how three-dimensional modeling can be applied to urban sprawl, land development, virtual reality, emergency management and even some incredible Hollywood special effects. 


Urban Growth Boosts 3D Modeling

Over the last several years, drones have help reshaped 3D Modeling for everything from infrastructure repairs, smart city expansion, construction design, surveying, and many other needs and applications.

Irene Kwan, Southeast Asia sales manager for Microdrones, examines some of the use cases, trends and technology that drones are currently being used for in her region.

Rapid Urban Growth has created an increase in the need for 3D modeling to help plan, survey and map urban sprawl and create precise digital graphics. This can be used to help manage public security, forestry management, power line management, water conservation projects and construction design.

Irene sights a local customer in the Hunan province as a good example. “Our customer had a construction project to build a very big amusement park covering an area up to 400,000 square meters,” said Kwan. “To help create a more precise measurement of building materials and resources needed, we used our drone to map the area and create a 3D model. The model can then be used to get a better estimate of costs to build the amusement park.”

Virtual Reality

Besides estimating project costs, 3D modeling can also be used to showcase an accurate visualization of an attraction through virtual reality. In Thailand, Irene used the drones in combination with an oblique camera to generate a 3D model of the Grand Palace. “The Grand Palace is extremely huge,” explains Kwan. “It’s a complex of buildings, gardens, and courtyards that cover an area of more than two million square feet. So, it’s not possible for tourists to visit the entire complex or walk through all of the gardens. We can create the 3D model and generate a visualization that tourists can purchase and view with VR glasses, creating a more through virtual experience.”

In southeast Asian countries, Irene sees urban planning and construction as one of the biggest growth opportunities for 3D modeling. “Traditionally, the planning has been created two dimensionally,” said Kwan. “They have the experts there and they do the planning based on their feelings and experience. But there is the problem, that we don't actually know how accurate it is. 3D Modeling infuses the technology to create a design plan that simulates a very accurate representation of the urban environment, that can help display what kind of urban construction is needed.”

Emergency Planning

Another main application will be for emergency services. Southeast Asia is often crippled by natural disasters such as typhoons, cyclones, and earthquakes. In larger urban areas, where urban growth has created congestion, 3D modeling enables officials to develop contingencies, evacuation procedures, and even redevelopment plans in case of a natural disaster. Irene says, “It's very important for the transportation management agencies to have 3D models and graphics of the roadways, bridges, tunnels, subways and structures so they can actually have a clearer understanding of the transportation network. This gives them a complete map of the transportation system to help redirect and guide people to a safer place under emergency circumstances. 3D models can also be used on a smaller scale, say, in the case of a building fire. Having a 3D model of the building can help identify entrance and exit routes to direct people to safety.”

The technology available today, in the entire integrated UAV system, is what helps create the most accurate 3D models.  Previously, much time and expense went into drawing these models and using computer software to create the best representation. Covering large areas was simply not feasible due to time, resources and the large processing costs. “Now, we can actually send the drone to our target site, take pictures and quickly generate 3D models,” says Kwan. “The entire process is more cost effective and we can reconstruct the original surface or landscape of the city in a more authentic sense. Especially when it comes to showing vegetation and complex terrain.”

Drones, Camera, Action.

This technology is also helping create very realistic special effects in cinema. Drones are being used to help capture cityscapes and create 3D models that can then be rendered into cinematic displays of destruction. “In China, we have a very successful science-fiction film where there are scenes of disasters which are impossible to shoot in the real life,” explains Kwan. “For example, there is a scene that shows the destruction of downtown Shanghai. To help create this illusion, our drones take pictures of the buildings in that specific area. Using the images captured, we can generate a 3D model of downtown and export it into TurnSoft, which is software for computer graphics. Then the producers can create special effects that are an accurate and realistic representation of downtown Shanghai.”

The future of 3D modeling and drones

Drones have helped make it much easier to acquire and flip data into 3D models. Whether those 3D models are used for creative purposes, like science fiction films or for more practical purposes, such as city planning, oblique photogrammetry using drones, is slowly replacing the traditional methods for manual modeling. “We’re seeing a bigger demand to create 3D models that cover a large area- whether it’s a tourist destination, construction site or large regions of a city,” says Irene. “The time and expense to manually create drawings will not be able to compete with the efficiency of flying a drone, capturing pictures and generating very accurate 3D models.”

If you’d like to learn more about integrated systems from Microdrones, get in touch with one of our friendly representatives today.