Intergeo preview: Photogrammetry heads for new markets

August 10, 2017  - By

We’ve entered a new golden age for photogrammetry, powered by the ease of digitizing images and their ubiquitous availability.

Photogrammetry is the science of making measurements from photographs. While science drives the process, business is driving a wealth of associated applications.

“Photogrammetry is ahead of its time because everything is already fully digital in this discipline,” said Heinz-Jürgen Przybilla, professor of Geodesy at Bochum University of Applied Sciences.

UAVs, digital cameras and image sensors on the Internet of Things, in aircraft or on satellites are opening up applications that only the world of science was predicting a few years ago.

Intergeo Show. The developments that photogrammetry is setting in motion will be on display at Intergeo 2017, Sept. 26–28 in Berlin.

The art of using photographs for surveying, which laid the foundation for present-day photogrammetry, dates back 150 years and involves developing processes to derive information from images that go far beyond simply viewing them. In recent years, the discipline has made huge progress, with businesses discovering new application areas.

The high level of automation makes it possible to interpret huge volumes of data from sources such as large-scale satellite imagery. The process also works in real time — a prerequisite in applications such as autonomous navigation.

“Automation in image evaluation makes people incredibly flexible. We’re no longer restricted to viewing the world from our own height,” said Christian Heipke, president of the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS).

Photogrammetry applications are moving into numerous sectors and tackling a host of challenges. Global change is being documented using images from space. Image data is being used to forecast crop sizes. Inaccessible structures are being monitored with the help of images from UAVs.

As Przybilla said, image evaluations from UAVs are already being used for high-precision land register surveys. What took days manually can now be accomplished in minutes.

Disaster Prevention. Other applications include disaster prevention and monitoring refugee movements. In many cases, drones provide a rapid overview, while satellites offer the large-scale basis for evaluating a situation.

In architecture, 3D models from aerial images complement computer-aided design (CAD) plans.  In conjunction with virtual reality, 3D models enable design variants for a building to be depicted in the actual environment.

Information is also being shared with disciplines such as computer vision and robotics, with “seeing robots” increasingly recording and mapping their surroundings.

Industrial site in 3D: A digital elevation model from a series of overlapping photos taken from a UAV at 300 feet above ground level.

Industrial site in 3D: A digital elevation model from a series of overlapping photos taken from a UAV at 300 feet above ground level. (Image: Eric Gakstatter)

More and more, the processes and algorithms on which image evaluations are based are becoming like a “black box” for users — hard to understand from the outside. While the black box is getting bigger, scientists are refining their methods.

“We’re increasingly combining existing data and this will leverage a huge amount of new potential,” explained Heipke. The black box for photogrammetry will be discussed at Intergeo.

Once the process of image content recognition is automated, applications are limitless.

Several sessions organized by the German Society for Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Geoinformation (DGPF) at Intergeo will be looking at topical issues in photogrammetry. The contents of the presentations range from new sensors and remote sensing to “engineering geodesy meets photogrammetry.” Numerous companies will also be showcasing their image-evaluation solutions at Intergeo’s specialist exhibition.

About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.