UAV LiDAR mapping technology point cloud is truly beautiful

Posted on July 26, 2019 in Archaeology

The art of the LiDAR point cloud

The Glasgow School of Art has published a book to celebrate some of the most beautiful and striking LiDAR point cloud datasets from around the world.

Routescene® entered the “Art of the Point Cloud” competition with a stunning LiDAR scan of a military monument. This is located in Maryhill, Washington State, USA. And is the first monument in the USA to commemorate the lives of military personnel lost in World War I.

Detailed LiDAR point cloud of military monument in Maryhill, Washington, USA, produced with UAV flight

Detailed LiDAR point cloud of military monument in Maryhill, Washington, USA, created with UAV flight

Digitizing replica of Stonehenge

What is unique about this scan is that it is the first LiDAR mapping technology scan of the Stonehenge replica. An exact copy of the original in the UK. The monument also serves as a lasting reminder of Samuel Hill. He is the patron of Maryhill, who established a township, experimented with paving roads and set up the Maryhill Museum. When Hill, a Quaker pacifist, visited England during the 1914-18 conflict he saw Stonehenge. He was told it was used for human sacrifices to pagan gods. He remarked that “After all our civilization, the flower of humanity still is being sacrificed to the god of war”. From that inspiration came the monument and it was completed in 1928.

What is also interesting about this story is the convergence of timekeeping and technology from the Neolithic to modern day. Early humans would have known the importance of the sun and its light in their daily lives. From the short, dark, cold winter days when food supplies grew low. To the return of light and warmth which meant crops would grow and animals thrive. It was this yearly cycle and the annual movements of the sun that inspired Neolithic people to construct a precisely aligned monument: Stonehenge. A prehistoric temple aligned with the movements of the sun.

Routescene LiDAR mapping technology for UAVs – a modern approach

Fast forward to modern day and to the Routescene LidarPod®, LiDAR mapping technology, which was used to scan the replica Stonehenge in the USA. This highly complex 3D mapping tool brings together two emerging technologies. LiDAR and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The site was surveyed in a single 10 minute UAV flight. Plotted by Brian Dalrymple on a DJI S1000 octocopter. Strong updrafts in the afternoon sun and a steady stream of onlookers who stopped to watch the spectacle made for an interesting afternoon.

Artistic 3D point cloud of the monument

Artistic 3D point cloud of the military monument, that looks like Stonehenge in the UK

This new technology uses modern GNSS positioning, high speed processors and LiDAR. All relying on accurate timing to synchronize the UAV GPS trajectory with precise laser ranging. All essential to produce a highly accurate point cloud. We have come full circle – timekeeping is a vital part of the tool which has captured this wonderful LiDAR scan of a prehistoric precise timekeeping temple.

Considering artistry, the viewer is immediately drawn to the symmetry of the scan. See also the immense detail down to the texture of the stone. The strong shadows seen in the scan again make a direct connection back to the purpose of the original monument, an ancient timepiece.

Preparing the drone for UAV LiDAR survey at the monument site

With acknowledgment to the Maryhill Museum. Thanks for the permission to fly and for providing all the historical information.

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