Aerial Photographers
Press Release January, 2011

Aerial Photographer Reveals a New Dimension to Clifford’s Tower

Cliffords TowerAn aerial photography specialist who uses unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to obtain high resolution images of heritage and archaeological sites has recently completed an unusually high-tech project at Clifford’s Tower in York.

SUAVE Aerial Photographers were invited to take a series of photographs of the tower, which was first constructed by William the Conqueror in 1068 and which was rebuilt in stone in the latter part of the thirteenth century. The photographs were ultimately to be submitted for inclusion within an English Heritage guidebook about the tower.

More of these photographs can be found on the SUAVE website here.

Despite being a qualified fixed-wing pilot, the company’s founder Greg Colley chose not to use a conventional aircraft to obtain the images but rather, a specially adapted remote control helicopter, fitted with an under-mounted camera. The use of a UAV meant that access to the site could be gained much more easily and quickly and enabled detailed digital photos to be taken from a lower altitude without causing concern or disruption to local residents or businesses.

“UAVs are ideally suited to this kind of work,” explains Greg. “They are quiet, easy to manoeuvre and they don’t require pilots, fuel-hungry aircraft or clearance from air traffic control. The vehicles we use incorporate advanced video technology that, coupled with the use of special electronic goggles, gives the photographer a real-time view of what the airborne camera is seeing. Consequently, we can position the UAV very precisely in order to frame the best shot.”

The resulting images so impressed the client that one of SUAVE’s aerial photographs of Clifford’s Tower now graces the guidebook’s front page.

Cliffords Tower 3D modelHowever, Greg was not content simply to take a sequence of still photos; he took the opportunity to demonstrate another important application of the technology – the ability to combine multiple images to produce an interactive 3D model. This technique is relatively new and based on the use of advanced software which is opening up exciting opportunities in the field of photogrammetry.

To produce the model, Greg flew his UAV in a complete circuit around Clifford’s Tower, taking high resolution photographs from all angles . Using specialist software, he was then able to combine these images into a 3D model that enables users to explore the whole structure without leaving the comfort of their chairs.

A simple demonstration of the resulting 3D model of Clifford’s Tower can be found on the SUAVE website.

“These 3D models lend themselves particularly well to heritage and tourism projects,” notes Greg. “They provide a clear and accessible insight into the layout of a site and, as a result, they tend to be extremely popular with members of the visiting public.”

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