Small unmanned aerial vehicles (sUAV) can produce valuable data for inspections, topography, mapping, and 3D modeling of structures. Used by multiple industries, sUAV can help inspect and study geographic and structural sites. Typically, the sUAV and camera specifications require optimal conditions with known geography and fly pre-determined flight paths. However, if the environment changes, new undetectable aerial hazards may intersect new flight paths. This makes it difficult to construct autonomous flight path missions that are safe in post-hazard areas where the flight paths are based on previously built models or previously known terrain details. The goal of this research is to make it possible for an unskilled pilot to obtain high quality images at key angles which will facilitate the inspections of dangerous environments affected by natural disasters through the construction of accurate 3D models. An iterative process with converging variables can circumvent the current deficit in flying UAVs autonomously and make it possible for an unskilled pilot to gather high quality data for the construction of photogrammetric models. This can be achieved by gaining preliminary photogrammetric data, then creating new flight paths which consider new developments contained in the generated dense clouds. Initial flight paths are used to develop a coarse representation of the target area by aligning key tie points of the initial set of images. With each iteration, a 3D mesh is used to compute a new optimized view and flight path used for the data collection of a better-known location. These data are collected, the model updated, and a new flight path is computed until the model resolution meets the required heights or ground sample distances (GSD). This research uses basic UAVs and camera sensors to lower costs and reduce the need for specialized sensors or data analysis. The four basic stages followed in the study include: determination of required height reductions for comparison and convergent limitation, construction of real-time reconnaissance models, optimized view and flight paths with vertical and horizontal buffers constructed from previous models, and develop an autonomous process that combines the previous stages iteratively. This study advances the use of autonomous sUAV inspections by developing an iterative process of flying a sUAV to potentially detect and avoid buildings, trees, wires, and other hazards in an iterative manner with minimal pilot experience or human intervention; while optimally collecting the required images to generate geometric models of predetermined quality.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Civil and Environmental Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





Structure from Motion (SfM), automated, photogrammetry, reconnaissance, aerial hazards, small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS), Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)



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Engineering Commons