Real time 3D mapping with Drones

A Lockheed Martin drone equipped with a video camera and an on board graphic processor to create 3D maps in real time. Credit: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin has announced Hydra Fusion, a software that allows real time 3D mapping using video streams from both stationary and mobile cameras. It has been designed principally to convert video streams captured by a drone (although it can also leverage on combined video streams generated by several drones) into a 3D rendering.

There are already a number of applications to create 3D rendering of images and video streams taken from drones but this is the first to be able to generate a seamless rendering in real time with an amazing resolution: 30 cm per pixel from a drone flying at 60km/h.  At lower speed (and altitude) the resolution can be increased to an astounding 2.5 cm.

Lockheed Martin is developing military product but for this kind of application they have used a commercial video camera and a commercial GPU (Graphic Processing Unit) hence creating a product that is affordable to a broad market.

The software is presented as "Lockheed Martin way of using big data". Indeed, the video streams are bringing in a lot of data and the rendering is a way of extracting semantics from the raw data.

Drones will become widespread in the next decade, and will be used for an amazing number of applications, from agriculture to city monitoring and even person monitoring companion. Movie stars may elect to use a drone as their official photographer, always around to capture snapshots of their life for the joy of their fans.

Of course, privacy will become an issue. Face recognition is already reality and will be perfected in the coming years. A drone can be directed to follow a person with or without him being aware of it. As he number of drones will grow and they will become part of the environment they will fade out of our perception but we won't fade out of their, quite the opposite. 

As with any new disruptive technologies a host of new questions will pop up. An we have just begun!

Author - Roberto Saracco

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