International sports telecasters, movie makers, online gaming developers, mining companies and town planners all want one thing – the world captured and reproduced in an accurate, manageable and interactive digital format.
Google does too.
Zooming around on Google Earth over selected sites throughout Western Australia to New Zealand, Tasmania to far north Queensland and other places in between, the term ‘©Aerometrex 2014’ appears stamped over high quality digital images of streets, venues and tourist attractions.
Aerometrex is an aerial mapping company based in Adelaide, South Australia. The business produces high-resolution imagery and 3D models from data it captures from the skies.
“There is a profound difference in resolution, accuracy and quality between high-resolution digital aerial imagery (pixels in the range of 8cm – 15cm) and satellite imagery (pixels sized 40cm or greater),” explained Mark Deuter, the managing director of Aerometrex.
“We watched the release of Google Earth in the mid-2000s, and saw that we could offer them something,” he said. “We contacted them, supplied some test data sets and did a large commission in 2008. We now have an ongoing contract.”
Queensland company Urban Circus brought in Aerometrex on an Australian Federal government project. The work involved the application of Building Information Modeling (BIM), where digital representations of the physical and functional characteristics of a site or a building facilitate processes in management and decision-making.
“The Department was looking for a better way to manage their assets and improve efficiencies relating to construction, design and maintenance,” said Ben Guy, CEO at Urban Circus.
“Our solution offered a 3D mash-up between aerial digital data collected across their facilities combined with two-dimensional information relating to services such as sewerage, electricity and water,” he said. “Aerometrex captured and provided the aerial digital data.”
Urban Circus and Aerometrex are now generating interactive 3D models of the Melbourne CBD.
“It’s the sort of platform that will give builders and developers the capacity to add and manipulate new buildings within the model, and to look at development assessments in a real-world simulation,” explained Guy.
Aerometrex has operated in the surveying and mapping arena since the 1970s and recently invested heavily in its 3D capabilities.
Photorealistic virtual reality.
“The focus of most of our current work is on imaging technology and aircraft,” said Deuter. “At the moment we have around 30 employees, we own our own camera equipment and are operating four aircraft.”
It’s an expensive proposition. A large format aerial camera costs in excess of a million dollars.
Technical Director at Aerometrex David Byrne added that aside from the investment in hardware, the task of sending aircraft up into the skies to collect images is a major expense.
“Depending on the craft, a plane can cost from around $800 to about $2500 per hour to run,” he said. “So when you do put it up, you want to make sure the weather is suitable and you can capture good imagery.”
Other factors can also complicate the use of aircraft, such as wind direction and air traffic control limiting access due to flight paths and the volume of traffic.
“We have to apply risk factors to all our flying,” said Byrne. “When costing, we calculate a reasonable expectation on how many days it will take to capture that area.”
Aerometrex also captures imagery from helicopters - using mounted or hand-held equipment - and is developing approaches to working with unmanned drones.
Adelaide aerial 3D photogrammetry.
Their capacity to produce high-resolution, geo-accurate, digital 3D models is attracting attention from around the world.
“Nobody is capturing at the resolutions for 3D mapping like we are,” said Byrne. “While most other companies offer around a 10cm resolution, we’re capturing at about 2cm resolution. We can see very high detail in our models.”
“We worked with British Sky for the 2013 Ashes cricket series and captured imagery from all the cricket stadiums they used for their UK broadcast,” said Byrne. “More recently, gaming technology producers and a Hollywood movie director have sought us out.”
Over the past year Aerometrex has worked on over 300 projects, with more than 100 clients across the mining, engineering and surveying industries as well as local, state and federal Australian governments.
“We negotiate licensing of imagery on a client-to-client basis,” said David. “But most of our work is project-based where the client comes to us with a problem or an area of interest that they want mapped.”