360 Cameras

For some time, OpenSfM, the photogrammetry library maintained by Mapillary that underpins OpenDroneMap, has had support for 360 cameras. We are working on a project at the moment with some great engineering students from Case Western Reserve University on building a next generation 360 camera for photogrammetry, but while that project wraps up, I wanted to test what can be done with a commodity unit.

So, with hunker-down-in-place orders the du jour, I opted to do my initial tests in-between my house and the neighbors:

I know I probably don’t need my mask there, but I have nasty tree allergies, so I am taking advantage of the normalization of mask wearing to keep my lungs healthier than they are most Spring seasons.

First, the why-what?!

In the increasingly tenuously named OpenDroneMap project, we have seen some interesting alternatives to drones in use — general photogrammetry that I owe more blog posts on (in the meantime, you can sneak-peak them at https://smathermather.com — I have just been too busy to reblog them yet). From tiny pits and seeds of hard to identify plants to animal skulls, there are some interesting non-drone use cases for good photogrammetry.

Are drones enough?

Drone mapping is a really exciting and useful innovation: it allows for mapping large areas with low capital investment, an opportunity to leverage local talent, can often capture with a faster cadence, and higher resolution and has a small fossil fuel footprint as compared with using manned aircraft. But the detail available is not always the detail needed. Consider dense urban locales, especially in places that also are thickly vegetated, and drone mapping may not always be enough for capturing the bottom-of-the-urban-canyon elevations needed for certain detailed hydrological analyses.

360 → 3D?

With a 360 camera and enough walking, can we create a synoptic understanding of our world that augments what we are doing now with drones? Tests from my driveway are very promising.