Aug. 15 - Engineers from Spain's University of Granada are developing an unmanned aerial vehicle capable of flying in and around buildings to construct 3D models in unprecedented detail. Matt Stock reports.
Scaling new heights in the world of 3D architecture - pilotless drones may be the key to unlocking the hidden details of historic buildings and monuments. UAVs - or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles - more commonly conjure images of covert military operations. But this miniature drone being developed at Spain's University of Granada is being used to scan buildings to construct 3D models. Antonia Moraeles Garcia from Intelligenia Dynamics, the company building the prototype UAV, says the drone's unique features give it the stability to make accurate scans. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ANTONIA MORAELES GARCIA, CEO OF INTELLIGENIA DYNAMICS, SAYING: "It has eight different rotors and the battery pack that goes back here can be fast trap and it also has GPS which comes here. And this camera, which is all the time pointing down, is a special sensor which will help us stabilise the copter and avoid drifting." Able to fly within inches of a building's facade, the drone eliminates some of the usual problems inherent in conventional 3D scanning, according to the university's German Arroyo. (SOUNDBITE) (English) GERMAN (PRON: HERMAN) ARROYO, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR AT UNIVERSITY OF GRANADA, SAYING: "Our methods enable us to obtain elements that are very difficult to obtain with other kinds of technology like 3D scanners. Mainly because the drone can fly very close to the building and we don't need any kind of element to place the drone in that part of the building. For example, we don't need any kind of crane that is need is traditional 3D scanning." The drone's manoeuvrability and size also allow access to previously inaccessible spaces, giving operators a highly detailed view inside the nooks and crannies of historical buildings. Developers hope to eventually build fully autonomous drones that can fly unassisted and scan a structure without the need for human control. It's an exciting prospect for architectural historians and researchers. By delivering a new perspective on design and construction, this drone is already creating quite a buzz.