Drone + Point Cloud + InfraWorks = COOL!

So the other day I took my DJI Mavic Pro out to an open field to test it’s automated flight option, Tap to Fly, and the time-lapse photos in order to create a point cloud using Autodesk Recap’s Photo to 3D service and, well… I was not disappointed.

But before I get into that… Let’s discuss my little toy. I’m not going to go too in-depth about it. If you want to learn more, go to the DJI Mavic Pro web site. The thing is amazing! For starters, it folds for easy storage, comes with a remote control (sort of a like a gaming control) that you can attach your phone to, has a 16GB micro SD card, additional props, and plenty of cables to attach an Android or iOS device. But I took the purchase one step farther and splurged for the ‘Fly More Combo’ which includes two extra batteries, a car charger, and a multi-battery charging block. And with a max flight time of 27 minutes per battery, you can fly for quite a while before you need to pack it up and head home.

But now that that’s out of the way…..

Like I said earlier, I used the timed photos and Tap to Fly options to fly over a field in order to (hopefully) create a point cloud. This was my first time using these options so that’s what ate up most of my time. I probably spent four times as much time to find, test, and learn the different options before actually putting them to use. So, with that said, my total flight time was around 3 minutes, flying at an altitude of about 100 feet, while capturing 72 pictures.

Creating the project using Recap 360’s Photo to 3D process was a breeze. It took me just about as much time to create the project and upload the photos to the cloud as it did to fly the mission. All I had to do at that point was sit back, let the power of the cloud stitch the photos together, create the point cloud and DEM tiff and wait for an email to let me know my project was ready. No real lost time there; just the three minute to create the project and upload photos.

And what I got back did not disappoint.


From my 3 minutes and 72 photos, Recap 360’s Photo to 3D was able to create a point cloud (.RCS), an FBX model (.FBX), an Autodesk Memento mesh file (.RCM), and an ortho image (.TIFF), but the point cloud and ortho images are what I was really interested in. The point cloud and ortho images can both be brought into either InfraWorks or Civil 3D and used as a starting point for design or as an enhancement to an already existing model.

I’m not going to lie. It was really easy. I can’t wait to put this to use on an actual project at some point.

Point cloud data in InfraWorks.

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