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News > 3-D models of urban environments to aid military efforts
3-D models of urban environments to aid military efforts

Posted 8/7/2007   Updated 8/7/2007 Email story   Print story


by Maria Callier
Air Force Office of Scientific Research Public Affairs

8/7/2007 - ARLINGTON, Va.  -- An Air Force Office of Scientific Research-funded team at the University of California, Berkeley has built 3-D models of urban environments for the first time in a fast, scalable and automated way.

Dr. Avideh Zakhor, professor of electrical engineering at the university, leads a team that has created a digital surface model out of airborne laser scans with complementary roof-and terrain-shape, and texture maps them with aerial imagery.

"This technology is important in matters of national security as it can be completed now in record breaking time," explained Ms. Zakhor. "Knowing the exact 3-D map of the city is useful to counterterrorism activities, mission planning and disaster management.

"Military commanders can use 3-D models to efficiently and precisely plan particular missions," she said. "The team would like to extend the 3-D modeling of the indoor environment and consider the problem of incremental model updating after a building is demolished."

In previous approaches to 3-D modeling, researchers would have to park acquisition apparatus in front of a building for an extended period of time. With the new technology there is continuous mode scanning, cutting scanning time to about 25 minutes. Processing the resulting scan data on a single personal computer takes four hours. The end result is a detailed model of the building or other structure.

"We present an automated generation of textured 3-D city models with both high details at ground level, and complete coverage for a 'bird's-eye view'" said Ms. Zakhor. "The goal is photorealistic rendering for walk-throughs, drive-throughs and fly-throughs. A close-range fa├žade model is acquired at the ground level by driving a vehicle equipped with laser scanners and digital cameras through downtown under normal traffic conditions. By negotiating the street in a continuous, rather than a stop-and-go fashion, we obtain extremely fast data acquisition times."

Following completion and transition of the ongoing 3-D modeling effort, the team would like to extend their work to the indoor environment as well as the suburban landscape where trees and other natural objects are intermingled with buildings.

By funding research efforts for the Air Force in relevant scientific areas such as 3-D modeling, AFOSR continues to expand the horizon of scientific knowledge. AFOSR is part of Air Force Materiel Command's Air Force Research Laboratory.

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