Even though aerial imagery is a common asset in military operations, 3D maps can be difficult to collect on short notice without specialized equipment. Accurate 3D maps from ordinary aerial footage can now be made in just minutes with this new photogrammetry technique from the Army Corps of Engineers.

new technique called photogrammetry
The new technique in photogrammetry creates 3D maps in minutes


When there are multiple photos to compare the same location or item to produce a 3D map of it, it is known as Photogrammetry. Despite being a well-known method, in some cases, it still requires human supervision. For instance, which frames of a video should be used to produce the best results.

Ricky Massaro from the Army’s Geospatial Research Laboratory in Virginia has mitigated that problem and produced a highly efficient photogrammetric method. This method can turn aerial imagery into accurate 3D surface maps in near real-time without any human oversight.

The 101st Airborne tested the system, which flew a drone over Fort Campbell in Kentucky and mapped a mock city used for training exercises. Further, it was also deployed in Iraq for non-combat purposes. It is now being publicized because the patent filing is in and the Army is now negotiating to commercialize the system.

“Whether it’s for soldiers or farmers, this tech delivers usable terrain and intelligence products fast,” said Quinton King, a manager at TechLink, the Defense Department’s commercial tech transfer organization. “And I’m happy to help companies learn how they can leverage Dr. Massaro’s work for their own products or applications.”

The real-time photogrammetry wouldn’t replace lidar or ground-based mapping systems but act in concert with them. It is adaptable to a variety of situations. It is able to produce accurate depth from ordinary aerial imagery, and without having to send tons of data to a central location or involve human experts.

new technique called photogrammetry