Geo Week News

May 27, 2011

Will photogrammetry and the cloud put aerial lidar out of business?

Whenever I get asked about the coming ubiquity of laser scanners, I’m always pretty bullish, with one caveat: If the photogrammetry software ever gets good enough that the accuracy is comparable (not “the same,” but comparable), then the growth of laser scanning might have a ceiling, limited by those for whom good enough is good enough. 

So, when I come across a cloud-based software like Pix4D, it’s probably not surprising that I immediately wonder, “Which aerial lidar jobs does this replace?”

Essentially, the way this works is that you feed aerial photographs into Pix4D’s software, via browser, and out is spit a 3D model of the terrain you’ve photographed from above. And the models you can create are pretty dang detailed. In fact, Pix4D calls this model of Lausanne, Switzerland, “the world’s highest-resolution 3D model” of the city:

Whether that’s true or not, I have no idea, but it sure does look good on YouTube. 

Can XYZ measurements be taken? What’s the accuracy? How fast does this all happen? I haven’t looked into it that far yet. Not all of the answers are readily apparent on Pix4D’s web site. But they show they can do terrestrial stuff, too, should you so desire. 

Like Alice Labs and other companies doing work with photogrammetry, Pix4D has to make you wonder how many potential laser scans are made obsolete. A digital camera is pretty clearly less expensive than a laser scanner. Would surveyors be interested? Probably not. Would entertainment and gaming customers be interested? One would think so.

Something to think about over the long weekend. 

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