A team of senseFly engineers marks a new milestone in surveying techniques’ history by demonstrating that minidrone mapping technology is capable of producing a 20cm-resolution 3D model of the epic Matterhorn, known as “the most beautiful mountain” worldwide.
For the first time a team of engineers from senseFly was able to create a digital model of the Matterhorn with a 20-cm resolution in three dimensions.
The data was aquired during a total of 11 flights by several eBee minidrones flying concurrently and collecting over 2200 images within just a few hours. In cooperation with our partner Pix4D and through eBee’s image processing software Postflight Terra 3D-EB a high-definition 3D point-cloud was created made of 300 million points and covering an area of over 2800 hectares with an average resolution of 20 cm. 3D mission planning based on elevation data and multi-drone operation, two features recently released in senseFly’s ground control software eMotion 2, were instrumental in the success of this mission and the unprecedented quality of the dataset.
The project was realized in cooperation with Drone Adventures (planning and logistics), Pix4D (data post-processing) and Mapbox (online visualisation).
History of Matterhorn Surveying
In the early 20th century optical triangulation was used to measure the altitude of the Matterhorn. It was measured as 4,477.50m and recorded in geographic maps as 4478m.
In September 1999 Geology Professor Giorgio Poretti brought for the first time a precision GPS (Leica GPS500) to the summit and confirmed the altitude as 4,477.54m. Surveying insiders familiar with surveying history saw in this Matterhorn surveying as a symbolic moment of technological breakthrough.
In May 2011 researchers from the DLR (Deutsche Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt) created a 3D model of the Matterhorn with a maximum resolution of 50 cm using optical satellite data, in cooperation with DigitalGlobe and 3D Reality Maps.
Enabled by ultralight technology and 3D flight planning
The small weight and transportability of these ultralight drones enabled the team to carry and launch them from three different remote location and altitudes, thus fullfill Swiss requirements of in-line-of-sight operations.
One drone was carried by Team 1 in a backpack up to the summit of the Matterhorn. The challenge was to test take-off behavior at high altitude and in mountain typical turbulances. The ebee was launched at the summit of the Matterhorn (4478m), climbing up to an maximum altitude of 4707m, flying over the top of this epic mountain and mapping the west face.
At the same time Team 2 mapped the lower part in two phases with three more drones. Six flights started just above the Hörnlihütte at an altitude of 3260 m and mapped the north and east faces of the mountain reaching altitudes as high as 50m above the summit of the Matterhorn. Four more flights were launched at a remote place underneath the Hörnlihütte at the North face of the Matterhorn.
The main challenges successfully overcome were to demonstrate the mapping capabilities of minidrones at a very high altitude and in mountainous terrain where 3D flight planning is essential, all the while coping with the turbulences typically encountered in mountainous environments.
Successfull technology transfer
Started out of the EPFL in 2009, senseFly was able to successfully transfer years of research into user’s hands. The control algorithms of its minidrones are based on bioinspired autopilot technology developed at the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems at EPFL. senseFly recently went a step further and integrated multidrone operation and 3D flight planning for mapping in the latest release of its ground control software eMotion 2.
senseFly and Parrot joined forces in 2012 to lead the market of professional civil drones.
senseFly press contact: email@example.comTelephone: +41 21 552 0466
For further information and images please visit: http://www.sensefly.com/about/news-press-room.html
Watch the video documentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuZUSe87miY
senseFlyis a Swiss company that develops and produces autonomous ultralight flying drones (also called
UAVs) and related software solutions. The technology behind senseFly’s solution originated in 2001, when a team of robotic researchers at EPFL began investigating the control and navigation strategies of flying insects. This pioneering research enabled the development of a highly integrated autopilot employing smart control strategies similar to those found in flies and bees. senseFly was founded in late 2009 and launched its first commercial product shortly after. The swinglet CAM is a flying drone for aerial imagery acquisition and mapping. In 2012 senseFly joined the Parrot Group and is since then more than ever pioneering the field of flying drones for mapping and GIS applications. Its latest product, the eBee, was launched in October 2012. The company currently employs about 50 employees.
Pix4Dwas founded in 2011 after over ten years of leading scientific research, and has since become the leading provider for professional unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) processing software. Started as a spin-off of the EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) Computer Vision Lab in Switzerland, Pix4D is a dynamic and rapidly expanding company and is pursuing its R&D efforts by collaborating with industrial partners as well as EPFL in research projects supported by the Swiss Government.
Drone Adventuresis a Swiss non-profit commited to promoting the peaceful use of drones, focusing on conservation, humanitarian, cultural and search and rescue domains.
MapBoxis a platform for creating custom maps that fit your style, enhance user experiences, and visualize your data.