Communication Open Access

Evaluating Different UAS Flight Methods for 3D Model Generation and Printing of a Tornado Destroyed Cultural Heritage: Caddo House in Texas

Drones and Autonomous Vehicles. 2023, 1(1), 10003 ;
Yanli Zhang 1, *    David Kulhavy 1,    Joseph Gerland 2,    I-Kuai Hung 1,    Daniel Unger 1,    Xiaorong Wen 3,    Reid Viegut 1,   
Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, TX 75962, USA
Castilaw Environmental Services, Nacogdoches, TX 75965, USA
College of Forestry, Nanjing Forestry University, Nanjing 210037, China
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.

Received: 26 Oct 2022    Accepted: 21 Feb 2023    Published: 03 Mar 2023   


In recent years, the use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) to obtain imagery for photogrammetry has become commonplace. Using these data to develop 3D products has also grown significantly in both research and commercial applications. This study aims to find a relatively simple and low cost UAS flight method as a means to obtain data to produce a 3D model suitable for 3D printing. The study subject chosen to assess different flight methods was the Caddo House at Caddo Mounds State Historical Site located near Alto, Cherokee County, Texas, USA. To collect images for analysis, a DJI Phantom 4 Pro UAS was used. Pix4DCapture was used to fly the drone. Two main missions were carried out, one being a pre-defined double-grid flight, and the other being an orbital free-flight method. The findings of this study indicate that if the goal is to create a true-to-life 3D model of an object using UAS, the best method would be a curated orbital free-flight method. If there is time constraint and the subject is sufficiently large and not considerably irregular, a double-grid method with sufficient forward overlap and side overlap can produce desirable results, but with a slight loss of fine details. The 3D model developed from the curated orbital flight method was successfully printed with a customer grade FDM 3D printer.


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