senseFly map the Matterhorn

ebeematterhornZermatt, Switzerland – October 14th 2013: A team of senseFly engineers marks a new milestone in surveying techniques’ history by demonstrating that minidrone mapping technology is capable of producing a 20cm-resolution 3D model of the epic Matterhorn, known as “the most beautiful mountain” worldwide.

For the first time a team of engineers from senseFly was able to create a digital model of the Matterhorn with a 20-cm resolution in three dimensions.

The data was aquired during a total of 11 flights by several eBee minidrones flying concurrently and collecting over 2200 images within just a few hours. In cooperation with our partner Pix4D and through eBee’s image processing software Postflight Terra 3D-EB a high-definition 3D point-cloud was created made of 300 million points and covering an area of over 2800 hectares with an average resolution of 20 cm. 3D mission planning based on elevation data and multi-drone operation, two features recently released in senseFly’s ground control software eMotion 2, were instrumental in the success of this mission and the unprecedented quality of the dataset.

The project was realized in cooperation with Drone Adventures (planning and logistics), Pix4D (data post-processing) and Mapbox (online visualisation).

History of Matterhorn Surveying

In the early 20th century optical triangulation was used to measure the altitude of the Matterhorn. It was measured as 4,477.50m and recorded in geographic maps as 4478m.

In September 1999 Geology Professor Giorgio Poretti brought for the first time a precision GPS (Leica GPS500) to the summit and confirmed the altitude as 4,477.54m. Surveying insiders familiar with surveying history saw in this Matterhorn surveying as a symbolic moment of technological breakthrough.

In May 2011 researchers from the DLR (Deutsche Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt) created a 3D model of the Matterhorn with a maximum resolution of 50 cm using optical satellite data, in cooperation with DigitalGlobe and 3D Reality Maps.

Enabled  by ultralight technology and 3D flight planning

The small weight and transportability of these ultralight drones enabled the team to carry and launch them from three different remote location and altitudes, thus fullfill Swiss requirements of in-line-of-sight operations.
One drone was carried by Team 1 in a backpack up to the summit of the Matterhorn. The challenge was to test take-off behavior at high altitude and in mountain typical turbulances. The ebee was launched at the summit of the Matterhorn (4478m), climbing up to an maximum altitude of 4707m, flying over the top of this epic mountain and mapping the west face.

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