3D Modeling: An Interactive Future for Photogrammetry

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by: Nathan Feger, Aerial Imaging Coordinator

As the technology of photogrammetry advances, businesses must take full advantage of the resources available to provide customers with the very latest in products, services and support to maintain an edge in the world. Through the use of the latest software and our nadir and oblique imagery, ControlCam is working towards our goal to be able to provide customers with more options for their specific needs to track or plan information on their projects through the use of 3D models, giving customers the ability to use geo-referenced high density point clouds, mesh models, and production based modeling to facilitate a project’s needs.

Through our 2-dimensional multi view imagery, we can derive a 3 dimensional point cloud model that is geo-referenced through the IMU and GPS data collected with the images in real time. This data can be delivered into many output formats and contains a variety of geometric information on locations or specific objects like buildings, construction sites, and agriculture fields. The commercial applications are vast and include a wide variety of industries such as oil and gas, power, port authorities and shipping entities, drainage and hydrology patterns, forestry, and many other areas where accurate measurements and detailed information is needed. ControlCam provides this data by processing the images through specific softwares that use various mathematical algorithms to clean and analyze the data to provide a 3 dimensional model built from colored points on X,Y,Z coordinates. From there, the data can be imported into many CAD programs and design programs like Google’s Sketchup.

Fig 1. Point Cloud of the Port Of Palm Beach. © Control Cam 2014

Fig 2: Point Cloud of Port and surrounding areas. © Control Cam 2014

Another way to provide information for customers is the use of turning these point clouds into triangulated mesh models, by connecting the coordinated points into three point triangle faces to give a more solid version of the projected area, and allowing specific objects and buildings to become edited and removed, or other objects, such as future proposals to be added to the model to check measurements and other engineering or architectural needs.

Fig 3: Triangulated Mesh, Port of Palm Beach, FL. ©Control Cam 2014

The goal of generating highly accurate and geo-referenced models is and continues to be a fulfilling challenge, with a team of motivated technicians; we continue to explore the latest ways to provide clients with cost effective advanced options in the latest ways to visualize their data.

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Using Aerial Imagery to Kick off a 100 Year Celebration: An interview with the Port of Palm Beach

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by: Paige Parker, VP of Sales

I recently had the privilege to interview my first client for ControlCam in the commercial port industry, Ms. Julie Houston Trieste from the Port of Palm Beach. Julie has a rich history in public relations. After graduating from Wesleyan College, Julie went on to establishing her career and winning several awards for her work. She has been recognized for the following achievements: the Award of Merit, the Award of Distinction, and the Award of Excellence from the American Association of Port Authorities. I must say it has been truly an honor getting to know and work with this talented young professional.

Furthermore, I have been intrigued by her plans for our aerial photography services. Simply getting to see how this Port will be using and implementing GIS in combination with public relations for the port has been quite the eye opener because of the diversity it brings to the GIS world. When interviewing Julie, she commented on the application of GIS stating, “We also hope to use the imagery in materials as we look to commemorate our 100 year anniversary at the Port in 2015. It has been interesting to find old aerial images of the Port and compare both the development of the port and the technology of the imagery services from then to now.”

It is very interesting how aerial images and GIS will be used to celebrate such an event. This will bridge the gap between public relations and GIS. Combining the two to bring out the best of the port and its rich history is very impressive. Not only will this add value to the celebration, but it also has sparked an interest throughout the entire port to look into further applications for GIS.

It is a pleasure to honor customers and get to know each of them as well.  Innovative clients such as Julie inspire me each and every day which is why I thought it would be best to show the GIS community a little more about Julie and her thoughts on her role at the Port of Palm Beach.

What is your favorite thing about Port of Palm Beach?
“Personally my favorite thing about the Port of Palm beach is the diversity of our tenants. We have two cruises (a multiday and a day cruise gambling ship), Tropical Shipping which ships containerized cargo all over the Caribbean, Teeters, ships supplies and goods to Haiti, Rybovich services mega yachts at our Port, and the sugar harvested in the Everglades is trucked in to our port to be shipped for refining in the northeast US. Some of the mega yachts that call on our port for bunkering include Tiger Woods’s yacht and many other celebrities. You never know from what day to the next what you will see berthed at our Port.”

As the PR specialist for the port, can you tell me more about the Port’s recent public relations awards?
“I am so proud that in the past two years we have won five Communications Awards from the American Association of Port authorities recognizing our website, Facebook page, new logo, rebranding, and a radio show I did with our Harbor Master discussing our port and the annual Blessing of the Fleet that is hosted at the Port. Our website was also recognized by the Palm Beach chapter of the Public Relations Society of America this year. These awards are so special to me because I was so involved with each piece and they were a labor of love for me. Being recognized for doing a job I am so passionate about is a great accomplishment.”

How has working with aerial imagery sparked an interest for more information on GIS technology throughout your organization?
“We are such a small port, size wise, that we have been operating without GIS for years. We are learning more and more that we do so much with limited resources and by implementing GIS with our aerial photography we can be more efficient with meeting our daily demands from all of our departments and then focus more time on operations and business development. We recently learned that we have been awarded a $2 million homeland security grant and a GIS department is at the top of our list!”

What are your plans for implementing aerial imagery into marketing and GIS needs at the port?
“The most obvious is how we can map and measure areas that are available for lease. Because we are small, we have to be creative with what we do with every bit of land and incorporating the two will let us identify and make the most of every square foot of usable space.”

What was your favorite thing about our services at ControlCam?
“First the people have been outstanding to work with. Everyone has been responsive to our needs and prompt with working with us to make sure we are getting the most from the product. Also I am excited to use the imaging for the presentations we make each month to our Board of Directors. It lets us paint a perfect visual picture of the needs and successes of our Port and staff.”

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Aerial Photography: More than just a pretty picture

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by: Brad Verdesca, Aerial Photography Coordinator

“Man must rise above the Earth … for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives.” – Socrates

One of the great things about my job is I get to see what Socrates really meant. It’s truly amazing how much information can be gained from doing an aerial imaging flight. In addition to the images we collect, we also gather information from Global Positioning Satellites allowing us to use our photos in many ways. We can measure distance such as road or river width. A restaurant can plan for development by quickly identifying property in prime locations. Governments can compare images from last year for things like coastal erosion or urban development. This is called change detection, and by using software, computer programs can quickly detect the change in large sets of pictures with their unique algorithms. This can help us monitor our direct impact on our environment and help us promote the idea of sustainability. After processing our images through multiple software programs, we are now creating 3D models with point cloud data. The technique we use to collect our images allows us to create these models without the use of LIDAR. It is really amazing how much data we collect on one flight, it is no wonder we need over 1TB of storage connected to our camera system.

As an avid photographer even outside of work, I have a certain level of respect for photography as an art form.  What the photographer shows in the constraints of the frame can speak volumes about many things without saying a word. Operating the 5 cameras that hang through the bottom of our aircraft takes up most of my time in the air. When I have a free second, I like to use my own camera to capture my own ideas and landscapes. As a sports fan I am fond of large architectural buildings like stadiums. I like flying above civilization and seeing the many patterns and irregularities of urban and rural areas.

Frank Wright first wrote in 1987 about the Overview Effect. It is a term that describes the feeling astronauts experience when seeing the Earth millions of miles below them. Such feelings include a sense of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment. Here at ControlCam, we are far from interstellar travel, but we can provide a similar perspective on the Earth that one cannot achieve by simply standing on the ground. Now, our Cessna flying at a few thousand feet may not be the same as orbiting the earth at 17,000+ MPH but I still get excited every time I fly.

In conclusion, after more than a year with ControlCam I have found many beautiful pictures that capture the crust of Earth.  In that same time, I have learned about the many ways we can use these photos for more than large wall decorations. My involvement at ControlCam is right at the crossroads of Art and Science. The beauty and objectivism of a photograph being used for precise measurements and mathematical algorithms is really what drives me to develop in this field. The list of uses for these pictures continue to grow, so while you may see just a picture, I see a whole lot more.

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How My OCD Makes Me Good At My Job

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by: Lauren Register, Manager, Imaging Production

From determining a word’s alphabetical line of symmetry to inspecting a paint line where the wall meets the ceiling, minute details tend to grab my attention, and they consume my mind to the point that, even in a social setting, I will completely zone out from distraction of such technicalities. This obsession of mine manages multiple areas of my life, particularly my career. While it is beneficial to have attention to detail, the associated anxiety sometimes comes to haunt me, but, in the end, it motivates me to do my job well, which includes producing mosaics at ControlCam.

One of my valuable traits is that I am naturally drawn to detail. Wikipedia refers to the phrase obsessive–compulsive as “meticulous”. This “meticulous” personality of mine kicks in during the aerial triangulation and seam line editing processes. Missing image connections, mismatched tie points, and invalid elevation data, are a few examples that, if gone unnoticed, will provide inaccurate data that could be exposed as a poor mosaic, later. With experience, I’ve come to identify these issues before they cause problems. Furthermore, awareness of seam lines passing through road lines and elevated structures such as roller coasters is valuable in the fact that if overlooked and unedited, the mosaic will practically be… well, garbage.

As previously introduced, anxiety will haunt me if important tasks, such as those mentioned above, fail to go as planned. If I encounter a project that was not solved to the appropriate level of accuracy, I immediately cringe and have flash backs to when my math professors would mark the whole problem wrong if the solution was off by a thousandth of a decimal. No matter how much effort is involved in a project, if it is mathematically incorrect then it is, no doubt, flawed and at high risk for failure. Although seam line editing becomes extremely tedious causing one to desire shortcuts, I cannot let myself do so. The thought that someone might specifically be hired to search for breaks along a road line or power line makes me bite my cheeks- I know there’s going to be “that guy”. So I refuse to move on until my work is seamless… no matter how long it takes.

Anxiety may cause me stress, but it motivates me to get the job done. Working with roller coasters in the Seaworld and Universal Studios theme parks was a learning curve for me. Most nights when I would lay down for bed, I would close my eyes and see nothing but a raster of viscous rides layered with a set of multiple-colored seam lines. My mind would not rest until I would come to amends with that which was flawed. After studying and later consulting with those who are more experienced in the editing of features like roller coasters, I finally learned and applied new editing techniques to master seam line editing of such horrific structures. It was time-consuming and labor intensive, but it produced a solid product.

Obviously, there are pros and cons to OCD in the workplace. Attention to detail, anxiety, and motivation is what it’s all about for me. It keeps me busy but productive, and it’s well worth it in the end when the client is happy and I can imagine my math professors smiling upon my work.

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Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. (August 7, 2014). Obsessive-compulsive disorder. Retrieved August 7, 2014 on the World Wide Web:


What It Takes To Differentiate A Business In A Crowded Market

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by: David Freedman, CEO 

A few months ago we were making a presentation to one of the largest counties in the United States. We were one of six finalists for this important project. I felt pleased that our company had progressed to the point where we would be considered a finalist. The presentation went really well and I was very excited that our images and software seemed to meet the needs of this very demanding customer. During the question and answer period the GIS Manager asked a very important question. He asked “Your images and software seem to be of very high quality, but all of the finalists seem to meet those same standards. Why should we pick your company?” What a great question.

There are more than 100 companies offering aerial imaging services in the US today. Some of them are small mom and pop operators with someone hanging out of a plane or helicopter with a camera. There are other larger companies with sophisticated imaging equipment capable of complex projects including aerial mapping, 3D models, and integration with the latest GIS software. Finding something that resonates with the customer in this crowded marketplace is not so easy.

The first and most obvious thing that customers look at is price. Price is a great way for a new market entrant to get customer attention. Having high quality and good pricing is a powerful combination that is difficult for competitors to match, but once a new lower price standard appears in a market the market usually adjusts and price goes away as a differentiator.

So what is left? I believe that once quality and pricing are comparable customers chose companies they like to do business with. The overall customer experience then becomes the key differentiator. A lot of things go into the perception of customer experience. From the first interaction you are developing an image of the company within the customer’s organization. Do you listen? Are you just trying to sell them something or trying to solve a problem for them? Do all of the people in your organization appear professional?

Once they decide to try you it is important for them to see how easy it is to do business with your company. They need to see that your contracts are fair and deliver what your sales team promised, that your products will deliver what you said they would during the sales process and if they need help your staff is helpful and responds quickly. All of these things can create the right customer experience. After you have delivered the product and the customer is satisfied you should stay connected to make sure you are positioned for their next need. If you can create a positive customer experience you can get that first sale but you can also make sure you have a customer who will be with you for years to come.

Creating the right customer experience is dependent on having the right people who buy into that vision. Even with the best technology or the lowest price you may not be successful in the long run. The key is creating a team who understands the importance of customer experience and delivers outstanding service every day.

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