project paper

Scanning Holden

| April 2014

Expanding the possibilities of 3D scanning using drone technology to capture a historic building.

After scanning a few people, some art, and even my cat I was approached by Arland Whitfield and his drone with the idea to scan something BIG.

The building we decided on was Holden Observatory on Syracuse University's campus, one of the oldest buildings in the Central New York area and at a little over 2 stories tall it was the perfect sized challenge.

Instead of attaching a depth sensor to the drone we decided to use photogrammetry, a process that involves photographing the object from all different angles to later calculate it's size and shape.

Essentially photogrammetry software will attempt to retrace your steps as the photographer and from the photos recreate the objects that were front of you. The easier it is for the software to follow and understand the path of your camera and the objects you were looking at, the better the result of the model.


After all that and a little bit of manual clean up we get the 3D model you see below! Click on it to pan, zoom and spin around the digital Holden Observatory

Image description

Photo: Budmen Industries
Image description

Photo: Budmen Industries
Image description

Photo: Budmen Industries


From my experiments scanning regular sized objects, I knew there were 3 basic angles we needed to capture in order to get the scan.

  1. Low and angled up
  2. High and angled down
  3. Directly above and straight down

Using that process we ended up with a lot of photos, over 400 in total! Here is a sampling of a few of the different angles we were able to photograph.


After looking at all of the photos we took we narrowed it down to a hardy 274 photos to upload. After uploading it takes awhile for everything to get sorted, analyzed, torn apart and finally pieced back together together.

After we click go the software takes all of those photos, finding common and identifiable elements in each stitches together the objects in the scene.

This photo shows how the software deconstructs the different pieces of the photo before stitching them together. If you look closely you can see different parts of the Observatory!


Arland Whitfield | Drone Expert

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