How and When to use PhotoModeler SmartMatch and DSM with Aerial Photos

PhotoModeler UAS uses SmartMatch to automatically detect common features across overlapping aerial photos, allowing DSM (Dense Surface Modeling) to generate 3D point cloud models and surfaces. Models can be enhanced with wireframe line-work, ortho-photos, contours, volumes, geo-referencing, and more.

Appropriate Subjects | Photography | Examples | Tools to Use | Other Resources


The appropriate subjects for SmartMatch/DSM for drone and UAS are those having terrain with natural random textures like the scenes shown below.

Desert Road Sample
Dirt Road Sample
Mine Sample
Mining Sample
Mars Sample
Mine Sample
Industrial Sample
Stockpile Sample
Service Road Sample


Take aerial photos with plenty of overlap (aim for approximately 60% or more side overlap). Typically photos are nadir (pointing straight down) but angled photos will work as well in some cases. A consistent spacing achieved with flight control software gives the best results. Photos should be in focus and exposed well. Random textured surfaces (ground, grass, short plants, sand, coal, roads) produce the best surfaces.

The aerial method for full site coverage:
aerial photos top


Here are some examples using this technique - with a brief description, a sample photo, the camera positions, and the 3D model for each:

Sample Photo
Photography Pattern
3D Result
  • Desert Terrain/Roads
  • 20 photos
  • UAS Tutorial
  • Geo-coordinate System (EXIF GPS)
  • Photo-textured surfaces
  • Desert SmartPoints Desert camera positions Desert 3D
  • Stockpile survey
  • 28 aerial UAV photos
  • Colorize by height
  • Volume measurement
  • mine sample photo
    mine cameras
    mine 3D
  • Open Pit Mining
  • 189 Photos
  • Volumes
  • Photo textured surfaces
  • Mine sample photo
    Mine camera positions
    Petroglyph 3D

    The STEPS

    PhotoModeler tools/features used in these projects:

    • SmartMatch – To orient your photos and build the approximate shape
    • Geo-coordinate systems – To orient your photos and build the approximate shape
    • DSM/MVS – To build the dense point cloud
    • PointMesh Edit – Triangulation of the point cloud into a surface
    • Volumes – To measure volume of various pile areas
    • Multi-spectral – Multi-spectral image support and orthophotos with false colored NDVI and similar metrics
    • Contours – To generate a contoured 3D map
    • Orthophoto – Re-rendering of photographic data to take into account the surface shape
    • PDF Report – Summary of project data and quality analysis exported to a pdf file

    SmartMatch, DSM and PointMesh Edit tools are available in PhotoModeler Scanner. PhotoModeler UAS also includes support for Volumes, geographic coordinate systems, multi-spectral images, camera auto-calibration and PDF project report.

    The STEPS

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