Photogrammetry Using Drones for Manufacturing

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Image: © HSSMI


At HSSMI we often look at innovative ways to improve existing workflows for the manufacturing engineering sector. One of the more recent interests was in the development of a workflow to implement the use of photogrammetry using drones for manufacturing.

Photogrammetry is the science of making measurements from photographs through capturing hundreds of images of an object or asset from multiple angles to create a point cloud after post-processing. Together with the technologies mentioned below, we’re aiming to update and complement existing manufacturing workflows.

– Cheap, small & lightweight drones equipped with high quality cameras

– Automated software post-processing

– Automated flights and flight plans

You may have already heard about photogrammetry before? If you have, it’s probably because it’s widely used in aerial mapping (i.e. Google Maps) but it’s starting to become a smart process for engineering disciplines too. This is due to the increasing technological advances in the post-processing techniques from computer software packages and camera hardware quality. By combining these techniques with the use of drones, we now have the ability to capture data with ease, with an added level of automation.

For HSSMI, it gives us the ability to use it in the manufacturing industry for a large range of applications. We don’t see it as being a replacement for LIDAR technology but more a complement to it, by being able to add extra detail to 3D models that LIDAR isn’t able to capture.

Real image                                                                                                          Point cloud data









Photogrammetry is less accurate than LIDAR (~cm vs ~mm) but it’s also less expensive and less bulky than LIDAR, so we believe it can still improve the way that factories and manufacturing systems are visualised and inspected.

One of the main benefits is that we’ll be able to send the drone into areas of the premises that are considered unsafe or inefficient to send humans, a drone can be sent in to complete a task either autonomously or in the hands of a pilot.  For instance, drones enable us to:

– Scan at heights to generate 3D geometry for design/planning – factory facility ceiling level MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) & services

– Scan machinery and manufacturing cells for maintenance and performance reporting

We’ve been working with photogrammetry for a while, most recently in the E:PriME project, where it is used to get accurate imagery of otherwise inaccessible locations at the pilot line’s facility.

If you have any further questions or would like us to get involved with any of your projects, please contact us.


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Written by:

James Kirby


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