Taking computer vision aloft - Archaeological three-dimensional reconstructions from aerial photographs with PhotoScan


Structure from motion (SFM) algorithms are known for their ability to reconstruct a sparse point cloud of scenes that were imaged by a series of overlapping photographs. When complemented by stereo-matching algorithms, detailed three-dimensional models can be built from such photograph collections in a fully automated way. Since 2010, a computer vision software package called PhotoScan has been available from the Russian manufacturer AgiSoft LLC. Even though the programme has a straightforward and simple interface, state-of-the-art SFM and other computer vision algorithms are implemented that enable PhotoScan to generate very dense and accurate three-dimensional meshes of various (archaeological) settings captured in two-dimensional imagery. Using a mixture of archaeological case studies, it will be shown that this low-cost application produces excellent results from aerial imagery in a minimum of time with almost no effort needed. Because of its solid and uncomplicated operation, it looks like this application could become an essential part of the aerial archaeologist’s toolkit.

Archaeological Prospection