German surveyors have used an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from Aibotix to generate a 3D model and point cloud of Novespace's Airbus A300 ZERO-G airplane.
Uli Bauer and Andreas Gelhausen were tasked with creating a model of the zero-gravity plane, which is being retired after having been used for 15 years by the German Aerospace Center for scientific research into microgravity. The model has an accuracy of +/- 5 mm.
The actual aircraft will be put on display at an airport for visitors to see; for this reason, it needs a supporting construction so that it can stand on its own without the tires touching the floor. The landing gear has only five position points, known as pins, on which the aircraft can rest. The surveyors needed to determine the position of the pins geometrically.
Bauer and Gelhausen wanted to use photogrammetry to generate the data, so they first scanned the landing gear with a Leica Scan Station C 10 to use as a reference. Following this, Gelhausen photographed the landing gear from all angles with a Nikon Coolpix A to create a 3D model from the pictures.
In order to capture the aircraft in its entirety, so as to quickly determine the dimensions for future transportation and final positioning, the surveyors covered the Airbus with the Aibot X6 UAV. They used a digital camera to generate data, which was further processed to produce a point cloud. “Using the hexacopter means that we are much faster than with conventional methods, but the accuracy remains the same,” explains Gelhausen.
“The final image analysis is very detailed and accurate; the results are amazing. The comparison with the laser scanned data has shown that we can use the hexacopter Aibot X6 system readily for such tasks in the future,” he says.
Photos courtesy of Bauer and Gelhausen