Posts tagged with "Drones":

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A French startup is using drones and AI to save the world's architectural heritage

Now active in over 30 countries around the world, French startup Iconem is working to preserve global architectural and urban heritage one photograph at a time. Leveraging complex modeling algorithms, drone technology, cloud computing, and, increasingly, artificial intelligence (AI), the firm has documented major sites like Palmyra and Leptis Magna, producing digital versions of at-risk sites at resolutions never seen, and sharing their many-terabyte models with researchers and with the public in the form of exhibitions, augmented reality experiences, and 1:1 projection installations across the globe. AN spoke with founder and CEO Yves Ubelmann, a trained architect, and CFO Etienne Tellier, who also works closely on exhibition development, about Iconem’s work, technology, and plans for the future. The Architect's Newspaper: Tell me a bit about how Iconem got started and what you do. Yves Ubelmann: I founded Iconem six years ago. At the time I was an architect working in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Iran, in Syria. In the field, I was seeing the disappearance of archeological sites and I was concerned by that. I wanted to find a new way to record these sites and to preserve them even if the sites themselves might disappear in the future. The idea behind Iconem was to use new technology like drones and artificial intelligence, as well as more standard digital photography, in order to create a digital copy or model of the site along with partner researchers in these different countries. AN: You mentioned drones and AI; what technology are you using? YU: We have a partnership with a lab in France, the INRIA (Institut National de Recherche en Informatique/National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation). They discovered an algorithm that could transform a 2D picture into a 3D point cloud, which is a projection of every pixel of the picture into space. These points in the point cloud in turn reproduce the shape and the color of the environment, the building and so on. It takes billions of points that reproduce the complexity of a place in a photorealistic manner, but because the points are so tiny and so huge a number that you cannot see the point, but you see only the shape on the building in 3D. Etienne Tellier: The generic term for the technology that converts the big datasets of pictures into 3D models is photogrammetry. YU: Which is just one process. Even still, photogrammetry was invented more than 100 years ago…Before it was a manual process and we were only able to reproduce just a part of the wall or something like that. Big data processing has led us to be able to reproduce a huge part of the real environment. It’s a very new way of doing things. Just in the last two years, we’ve become able to make a copy of an entire city—like Mosul or Aleppo—something not even possible before. We also have a platform to manage this huge amount of data and we’re working with cloud computing. In the future we want to open this platform to the public. AN: All of this technology has already grown so quickly. What do you see coming next? YU: Drone technology is becoming more and more efficient. Drones will go farther and farther, because batteries last longer, so we can imagine documenting sites that are not accessible to us, because they're in a rebel zone, for example. Cameras also continue to become better and better. Today we can produce a model with one point for one millimeter and I think in the future we will be able to have ten points for one millimeter. That will enable us to see every detail of something like small writing on a stone. ET: Another possible evolution, and we are already beginning to see this happen thanks to artificial intelligence, is automatic recognition of what is shown by a 3D model. That's something you can already have with 2D pictures. There are algorithms that can analyze a 2D picture and say, "Oh okay, this is a cat. This is a car." Soon there will probably also be the same thing for 3D models, where algorithms will be able to detect the architectural components and features of your 3D model and say, "Okay, this is a Corinthian column. This dates back to the second century BC." And one of the technologies we are working on is the technology to create beautiful images from 3D models. We’ve had difficulties to overcome because our 3D models are huge. As Yves said before, they are composed of billions of points. And for the moment there is no 3D software available on the market that makes it possible to easily manipulate a very big 3D model in order to create computer-generated videos. So what we did is we created our own tool, where we don't have to lower the quality of our 3D models. We can keep the native resolution quality photorealism of our big 3D models, and create very beautiful videos from them that can be as big as a 32K and can be projected onto very big areas. There will be big developments in this field in the future. AN: Speaking of projections, what are your approaches to making your research accessible? Once you've preserved a site, how does it become something that people can experience, whether they're specialists or the public? YU: There are two ways to open this data to the public. The first way is producing digital exhibitions that people can see, which we are currently doing today for many institutions all over the world. The other way is to give access directly to the raw data, from which you can take measurements or investigate a detail of architecture. This platform is open to specialists, to the scientific community, to academics. The first exhibition we did was with the Louvre in Paris at the Grand Palais for an exhibition called Sites Éternels [Eternal Sites] where we projection mapped a huge box, 600 square meters [6,458 square feet], with 3D video. We were able to project monuments like the Damascus Mosque or Palmyra sites and the visitors are surrounded by it at a huge scale. The idea is to reproduce landscape, monuments, at scale of one to one so the visitor feels like they’re inside the sites. AN: So you could project one to one? ET: Yes, we can project one to one. For example, in the exhibition we participated to recently, in L'Institut du monde arabe in Paris, we presented four sites: Palmyra, Aleppo, Mosul, and Leptis Magna in Libya. And often the visitor could see the sites at a one to one scale. Leptis Magna was quite spectacular because people could see the columns at their exact size. It really increased the impact and emotional effect of the exhibition. All of this is very interesting from a cultural standpoint because you can create immersive experiences where the viewer can travel through a whole city. And they can discover not only the city as a whole but also the monuments and the architectural details. They can switch between different scales—the macro scale of a city; the more micro one of the monument; and then the very micro one of a detail—seamlessly. AN: What are you working on now? ET: Recently, we participated in an exhibition that was financed by Microsoft that was held in Paris, at the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, a museum that has replicas of the most important sites in France. They're 3D architectural replicas or maquettes that can be 3 meter [apx. 10 feet] wide that were commissioned by Louis XIV and created during the 17th century because he wanted to have replicas to prepare a defense in case of an invasion. Recently, Microsoft wanted to create an exhibition using augmented reality and they proposed making an experience in this museum in Paris, focusing on the replicas of Mont-Saint-Michel, the famous site in France. We 3D scanned this replica of Mont-Saint-Michel, and also 3D scanned the actual Mont-Saint-Michel, to create an augmented reality experience in partnership with another French startup. We made very precise 3D models of both sites—the replica and the real site—and used the 3D models to create the holograms that were embedded and superimposed. Through headsets visitors would see a hologram of water going up and surrounding the replica of Mont-Saint-Michel. You could see the digital and the physical, the interplay between the two. And you could also see the site as it was hundreds of years before. It was a whole new experience relying on augmented reality and we were really happy to take part in this experience. This exhibition should travel to Seattle soon.
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Spy Games: Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei explore surveillance and selfies in new installation

Today, New York’s Park Avenue Armory unveiled an interactive exhibition by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei entitled, Hansel & Gretel. Emulating modern day surveillance, drones swirl overhead while infrared cameras document the viewers’ every move, screening the footage along the floor. Visitors in the installation are both watching and being watched, leaving digital “breadcrumbs” behind to be gathered and stored—hence the fairytale name. The effect is disturbing, thought provoking, and surprisingly fun as visitors posed themselves to create works of photographic art on the floor and took selfies (it is unclear if that was the designers’ original intentions). Visitors enter the Park Avenue Armory’s 49th Drill Hall through the Lexington Avenue side door rather than through the main doors. According to Herzog & de Meuron, this helped distance the Armory’s ornate architecture from the very modern display inside. “We wanted people to enter the space as you would a park, and we envisioned an entrance like a mouse hole, so we originally wanted to make a hole through the brick walls, but that was…complicated,” said Jacques Herzog at the opening. “The second best option was to use the existing two doors on Lexington Avenue and create a tunnel leading to the hall.” From the tunnel, a five-foot embankment leads up into the space, which hums with the sound of drones and visitors. Taking advantage of the area's scale, the room is dark and amplified with red laser lights. Upon exiting, the viewers can see the footage of the room being displayed in the Head House, realizing the extent of the “surveillance” at hand. In the hall, iPads allow visitors to use facial recognition software to find additional images of themselves and provide educational materials on drones and surveillance technology. Weiwei, who has been under surveillance in China, explained, “I think everyone is under surveillance to varying degrees. Human nature is searching for truths by any means necessary.” Hansel & Gretel is on view at the Park Avenue Armory through August 6.
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Take a drone tour of Herzog & de Meuron's Hamburg concert hall before it opens

If you can't get to the grand opening of Herzog and de Meuron's Elbphilharmonie (Elbe Philharmonic) concert hall in Hamburg on January 11, then fear not. A drone tour is on hand to whizz you through and around the building, showing off the Swiss firm's breathtaking interiors. The drones explore the wooden circulatory areas, as well as the main concert hall which is clad with acoustic gypsum fiberboard panels. The waterfront complex features three concert halls, a plaza for public viewing that provides sweeping views across Hamburg, and 45 private waterfront apartments. The largest concert hall—with a capacity of 2,100—floats within the main building on 362 spring assemblies for further sound-proofing. Drones also travel outside the building which features a shimmering glazed facade and a dramatic wave-like roofscape, mimicking the nearby river Elbe. Here, audiences can take in and fully appreciate the 1,100 glass panes that comprise the facade from close-up views. With each panel measuring a minimum of 13 feet across, many have been spotted with small dark gray reflective dots. Some panels are curved to distort the facade's reflection of the river, thus creating a shimmering effect. Each panel is unique and individually crafted. While creating an appealing aesthetic, the reflective glass facilitates temperature regulation by reducing heat gains. Structurally, the building relies on the support of roughly 1,700 reinforced concrete piles: It’s located where a waterfront warehouse stood until the project began (though its brick facade is still there) just under a decade ago. Click here for the drone tour!
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Striking drone footage over Cape Town reveals its divided landscape

Aerial photography, by nature, usually reveals patterns that are hard to comprehend as a pedestrian. Large-scale features such as infrastructure, landscape, and human geography can be put into perspective and thanks to Google Maps and other online satellite mapping services, this is information is all readily available at our fingertips.

However, as one photographer has pointed out, much still goes unnoticed. A resident of Cape Town, South Africa since 2012, Johnny Miller has captured the city’s housing landscape and highlighted a problem that's still plaguing post-Apartheid South Africa. As his project title Unequal Scenes suggests, Miller’s images portray the scale and proximity of inequality still present in Cape Town.

"There's a very uniquely South African form of spatial segregation that was developed during the apartheid," said Miller in an interview with The Architect's Newspaper (AN), adding how city planning and infrastructure carved Cape Town's social and racial demographics. "So, for example, roads, rivers, train tracks: the apartheid government did very well at separating people through architecture," he continued. "You see just in the way that the city is designed, it’s going be pretty difficult to redistribute wealth and facilitate the free movement of people."

Miller said he likes how his detailed images facilitate long-term viewing. The physical structure of communities becomes visible, allowing the disparity to be instantly apparent. The homes of the wealthy are arranged in a clearly structured and planned fashion. The "townships" of the poorer, black community however, show roads—if they can be called that—meandering in every which way. As a result, keeping track of dwellings, keeping them on the electric grid and part of the plumbing system, is difficult though most visibly, however, is perhaps the change in color from one side to the other. For instance, one township is adjacent to a golf course: a wealth of greenery covers the wealthier area while the township shows only shack rooftops and dusty dirt-tracks.

Manenberg Phola Park

With the rise of the Nelson Mandela, the apartheid government lost power in 1994. More than twenty years on, Miller explains that change hasn't been easy. There's been a failure in communication between the government and its people, leading to mistrust in state power. "There’s a lot of inequality, disenfranchised people who are really angry," said Miller. But he's is hopeful his project will finally spark a constructive dialogue between the authorities and the population. “I’m trying to promote a peaceful dialogue where people can share their opinions and become aware…. I think awareness is the only tool to defeat the fear that I see as really the root problem,” he added.

Miller hopes the legacy of his project will be the government's response to the questions that arise from his photography. Already, government officials have responded to his work, remarking on their awareness of the issue and stating that they are working on the problem. "What gets me excited about this project... you start to hear those answers, which is really what people want to hear," Miller implored.

Merely photographing the from above, though, isn't Miller's only ambition. He estimates that very few individuals within these poorer communities have even heard about his work. Despite his doing the rounds in South Africa’s printed media, mobile-media remains the dominant form of communication for many in townships. Cellular data tariffs can be pricey. Miller subsequently intends to display his work to residents within the photographed townships, providing what he thinks is an unseen perspective on where they live. “I think it would be really fascinating to show the person on the rich side and the poor side, just see what they have to say.”

Papwa Sewgolum Golf Course 1

In light of the responses Miller’s work has drawn, especially in comments on his Facebook page, it seems that his photography illuminates what appears to be an inconvenient truth for many. “In my opinion, I think it’s a lot of fear that drives these negative comments. Fear of the other, not understanding the person on the other side of the fence."

“Perhaps it takes flying above people, two to three hundred meters, to take away that humanity and reduce humans to mass clearings, or agglomerations, for people to pay attention," he continued, noting how some may have become desensitized to the traditional imagery of poverty: the African child with a bloated stomach looking into the camera. Indeed, "that face" can come from anywhere in the Third World, whereas Miller's drone images illustrate that poverty literally is on their doorstep, something which is arguably more personal.

What is apparent from Miller's work is that the drone provides a new perspective that, in Miller's words, “people really respond to. Seeing something they thought they knew in a different way" is evidently something that resonates—with the wealthier side for now, at least. If you want to follow Johnny Miller's project, you can do so through his Twitter feed, here. You can also find more videos here.

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Photographer Andy Yeung uses drones to capture the density of Hong Kong

Photographer Andy Yeung has been documenting the built environment ever since 2005. Eleven years and several awards later, he's using drones to amplify how we can can see his home city, Hong Kong.

This series of photographs, titled Urban Jungle, highlights the sheer physical mass of Hong Kong's urban environment while showcasing the array of colors used for its residential high-rises.

Prior to this, Yeung had been taking pictures from the opposite perspective. In his Look Up series, dizzying images show towers stretching up into the sky, amplifying their daunting qualities.

Other photos reveal facades in a different light, with repetitive patterns often being the focal point of his work.

Another series BeeHive again showcases the density of Hong Kong but from another different view point.

Yeung's work can also be found via his Facebook page, Instagram, and Google+ profiles.

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Impossible Architecture imagined by Turkish Photographer Aydın Büyüktaş

Inspired by the notions of varying dimensions and surprise Edwin A. Abbott's Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, Turkish digital artist and photographer Aydın Büyüktaş has created a fanciful Istanbul in his latest project. Aerial depictions of the city turn the landscape on itself—literally.

Using a drone, his photographs have been digitally manipulated to appear as if the city is doubling back over itself creating a fantastical curved world.

Büyüktaş's images can appear disorientating at first sight with the viewer's eye naturally following what should be linear forms that end up being viewed from alternate perspectives. The scenes resemble those from Christopher Nolan's Inception and Interstellar movies where cityscapes are curvaceous, both in dreams and in space.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRT0GGTWYnM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dG22TcpjRnY Creating the curving montages in a flat world  was no easy task. Drone's were sent up into the skies, but Büyüktaş had to rely on the weather and wildlife to be on his side.

"So many times I had to turn back without a picture because of bad weather, technical problems, or birds attacking the drone," he said.

Once he had collected all the images, Büyüktaş adopted the much more grounded approach of editing and patching them together in Photoshop.

"We live in places that most of the times don’t draw our attention, places that transform our memories, places that the artist gives another dimension; where the perceptions that generally crosses our minds will be demolished and new ones will arise," Büyüktaş says on his website. "These works aims to leave the viewer alone with a surprising visuality ironic as well,multidimensional romantic point of view."

https://www.instagram.com/p/BAQCOYCF8IT/
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Norman Foster proposes African Droneport to save lives and build economies

Who needs roads when you can fly? Norman Foster's latest project aims to support cargo drone routes that could deliver "urgent and precious supplies to remote areas on a massive scale." The scheme has significant potential in some of the barren heartland areas of Africa which are severely lacking in infrastructure, something that has proven a hindrance to the health and socio-economic well being of the region. Utilizing drones in such a way could change all that by connecting stranded communities and bringing valuable resources which are desperately needed. Unlike cars or trains, drones can easily (and cheaply) bypass the need to traverse across mountains, rivers, and lakes. Medical supplies are the main priority for Foster. He has teamed up with Afrotech, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL); and the Norman Foster Foundation. Drones here have the potential to disperse a variety of life-saving packages within a range of over 60 miles. This would work by using two drone networks called the Redline and the Blueline. The Redline would carry smaller packages and would primarily be for emergency medical supplies. The Blueline would be more commercial and would be able to carry "larger payloads such as spare parts, electronics, and e-commerce." A drone port would be a new typology for Foster + Partners, adding to its growing list of aviation-based buildings that includes various airports and "lunar building studies conducted in association with the European Space Agency." The firm aims for the project's design to be very simplistic and able to be assembled by locals. The port could also be a manufacturing site for drones which would potentially give locals greater employment opportunities. To give some scale of the issue Foster wishes to address, currently "just a third of Africans live within two kilometers of an all-season road." With this in mind, Africa's population is set to double by 2050 and so a solution such as this will be necessary to cater for the growing demand of Africa's people. Africa is a continent where the gap between the population and infrastructural growth is increasing exponentially," Foster said in a statement. "The dearth of terrestrial infrastructure has a direct impact on the ability to deliver life-giving supplies, indeed where something as basic as blood is not always available for timely treatment." With a pilot project set to be built by 2020 in Rwanda, "a country whose physical and social geography poses multiple challenges," the drone service hopes to send supplies to "44% of Rwanda." "Rwanda’s challenging geographical and social landscape makes it an ideal test-bed for the Droneport project," Foster said in a statement. "This project can have massive impact through the century and save lives immediately.”
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See this majestic aerial drone footage of Jordan's breathtaking canyons, ruins, and architectural history

Travel and lifestyle brand Matador Network released breathtaking footage of an aerial fly-over by drone, offering a soaring bird’s-eye-view of Jordan’s architectural marvels. The drones freewheel between the canyons, whose goosebump-raising majesty dwarfs the buildings carved right into the sandstone cliffs. The Monastery in the lost city of Petra, one of Seven Wonders of the World, makes an appearance, the structure itself so gargantuan that the doorway alone is seven stories high. Shot by Scott Sporleder and Ross Borden with the latest high-tech DJI Inspire and DJI Phantom 2 drones, as well as a GoPro Hero 4, the footage then transports you to the Roman Colosseum–like South Theater in the Greco-Roman city of Gerasa, now known as Jerash, last inhabited 5,000 years ago. The inhabited cities of Jordan also appear as ruins from afar, their facades of a similar sandstone ilk to the ruins lost to the Western world after Christ.
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The view from this South Dakota TV Tower is as grand & dizzying as any Manhattan skyscraper

04-tower-vid While here in New York City, the antennas we cover tend to sit atop skyscrapers like the World Trade Center, for much of the American landscape, the tallest fixtures are spindle-thin television towers that keep watch over an agrarian landscape. But the view from atop those towers can be just as beautiful as the view from a $100 million Manhattan penthouse, as this drone video proves. A day on the job for project manager Kevin Schmidt involves scaling a 1,500 foot television tower to change a lightbulb. A vertigo-inducing video of the climb shot by Schmidt’s colleague, Todd Thorin, using a Quatrocopter drone sent pulses racing and went viral on YouTube—and for good reason: it's stunning. Shot for Thorin’s aerial photography and videography startup, Prairie Aerial, the footage shows Schmidt’s painstaking climb, rung by rung, as the ground becomes increasingly distant and the buildings mere pinpricks. The TV antenna in Salem, South Dakota is operated by KDLT-TV and has been inactive for some time, but a functioning light bulb is necessary to warn pilots to circumvent the sky-high mast. An employee of Sioux Falls Tower and Communications, the climber with nerves of steel has been screwing in light bulbs at dizzying heights for eight years on outposts in dozens of states through rain, shine, sleet, and snow. Even at wind speeds of 60mph, it’s business as usual. “Some of my friends can’t believe I do it,” Schmidt told USA Today. “They get scared on top of their house.”
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Video> New York City gets very first "Drone Film Festival," and here are some of our favorites

As we’ve mentioned before, you can’t open a new tab on your browser these days without coming across a mesmerizing aerial drone video. With so many out there, we can't say we were surprised to learn that the New York City Drone Film Festival is something that exists now. Welcome to 2015! The human heading up the drone fest, director Randy Scott Slavin, told Bedford + Bowery that 40 to 50 videos will be screened out of the 150 he has received. Slavin said the goal behind the festival is to change the way people understand drones: “We need to remove this negative stigma—this spying, killing thing people associate with drones—and we need to appreciate it for the amazing cinematic tool that it is.” Sure, but the former doesn't have to be overlooked to appreciate the latter. The event on March 7th is already sold out, but Bedford + Bowery has put together a fun list of some of the possible contenders; some of which are below. The big question going into the drone festival is, of course, how will Norman Foster's video fare?
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Obama library as drone aviary? Chicago Prize winners speculate on president's legacy

The Chicago Architectural Club announced the winners of its 2014 Chicago Prize Tuesday, awarding five honors to speculative proposals for Barack Obama’s Presidential Library. Peace signs, notions of community ownership, and even drones enlivened the conceptual debate swirling around a closely watched project already wrought with its own political complications. Organizers said during a public unveiling Tuesday evening at the Chicago Architecture Foundation that they had received 103 submissions. Entrants were asked to sketch up concepts for the library on a site at the confluence of the Chicago River—one which is already home to a 53-story tower by Goettsch Partners, currently under construction. When CAC announced the topic in November, several potential library sites for the actual library had already been identified. Their locations—in and around the University of Illinois Chicago and University of Chicago campuses—exacerbated frictions between public space advocates, community residents and local politicians who would later agree to commit acres of Washington Park to the library developers. “We felt that this debate did not take place in public,” said Martin Klaschen, CAC's co-president, obliquely addressing why the competition chose the subject it did. “It's a political step that we intended not to interfere with the discussions of the other sites, and basically brought one more site into the debate.” In 2012 the prize touched on another hot topic: the imminent demolition of Bertrand Goldberg's Prentice Women's Hospital. Despite the neutral site, winning proposals provoked debate on some political issues. One submission, Obama Drone Aviary from Craig Reschke and Ann Lui, earned a “dishonorable mention,” CAC officials joked, for its wry proposal to make Obama's the first drone-driven library in presidential history. Though it presented the concept with a straight-faced optimism, Klaschen said, the subject matter belies a critique of Obama's legacy as the face of a growing surveillance apparatus and military-industrial complex. (Lui has contributed work to AN.) Two winners were named: The design team of Zhu Wenyi, Fu Junsheng, and Liang Yiang for their ring-shaped library (seen at the top of this page) and museum crossing the Chicago River; and Aras Burak Sen for a spherical enclosure containing a “Bridge of Hope.” Honorable mentions went to two projects in addition to the drone aviary: Drew Cowdrey and Trey Kirk; and Dániel Palotai. Cowdrey and Kirk proposed “a mobile library” of portable galleries and collections that could be loaned for tours and community exhibitions, housed in a Miesian “crate” on the downtown site. “As the production of architectural narrative intervenes and conditions the visitor’s experience, we have chosen to liberate the archival core from its vernacular wrapper—recasting it as a naked and autonomous urban figure,” reads their proposal brief. Palotai's black-and-white proposal outlined an elegant series of spaces “between sky and ground” intended to speak of flexibility, personal interactions and community authorship of what could start as a series of blank canvases. SOM donated the prize money, a total of $3,250. The jurors were: Elva Rubio, Stanley Tigerman, Brian Lee of SOM, Andy Metter of Epstein, Geoffery Goldberg, and Dan Wheeler of Wheeler Kearns. Chicago Architectural Club has details, full proposal PDFs, and a video of the awards ceremony on their website.