Structure-from-Motion, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, iterative inspection, automated inspection, multi-scale, view-planning, unsupervised machine learning, autonomous flight, iterative optimization


Unsupervised machine learning algorithms (clustering, genetic, and principal component analysis) automate Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) missions as well as the creation and refinement of iterative 3D photogrammetric models with a next best view (NBV) approach. The novel approach uses Structure-from-Motion (SfM) to achieve convergence to a specified orthomosaic resolution by identifying edges in the point cloud and planning cameras that “view” the holes identified by edges without requiring an initial model. This iterative UAV photogrammetric method successfully runs in various Microsoft AirSim environments. Simulated ground sampling distance (GSD) of models reaches as low as 3.4 cm per pixel, and generally, successive iterations improve resolution. Besides analogous application in simulated environments, a field study of a retired municipal water tank illustrates the practical application and advantages of automated UAV iterative inspection of infrastructure using 63% fewer photographs than a comparable manual flight with analogous density point clouds obtaining a GSD of less than 3 cm per pixel. Each iteration qualitatively increases resolution according to a logarithmic regression, reduces holes in models, and adds details to model edges.

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Peer-Reviewed Article

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Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering


Chemical Engineering

University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor