Hakai Institute

Hakai Institute

Weather conditions on Quadra and Clavert Island

Main Navigation

Mobile Navigation

Mapping in Multiple Dimensions - Hakai Institute

Mapping in Multiple Dimensions

Take a 3D tour of the Calvert Island Ecological Observatory.

The Calvert Island Field Station is the Hakai Institute’s flagship research facility on the Central Coast of British Columbia. With its combination of forests, beaches, and buildings, the field station was an ideal place to test out three-dimensional mapping techniques using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones.

Modeling in 3D

We created the 3D model using software that generates points in 3D space by looking at the same object from multiple angles and calculating the difference between the views. The points are then draped over a photograph to create a model of the object. Here is a neat video of the Pix4D process. In an ideal scenario, we would be able to re-create a perfect representation. But some features are difficult to map accurately. Trees and water, in particular, can be challenging to reconstruct because of their shape and reflective surfaces.

Point cloud image of the Pruth Bay dock at the Calvert Island Field Station. Imagery collected using a Phantom 3 UAV and processed using the Pix4D mapping software.

Filling in the Gaps

In the image above, there are blank spaces in the forest and distortions around the dock, which highlights the issues we face when mapping coastal environments. We often need to fly higher to get accurate images of the forest. When mapping over the ocean, we try to include stable features, like rocks and islands, in order to properly reconstruct the scene. With a lack of stable features, it is challenging to reconstruct much of the bay using this model. However, we continue to experiment with these exciting new tools to intricately map coastal environments.