National Unmanned Aircraft SystemsUAS Project Office

3D Modeling

Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming

After climbing to the top of Devils Tower a NPS employee places a real time kinematic survey
After climbing to the top of Devils Tower a NPS employee places a real time kinematic survey

Devils Tower rises 867 feet above the surrounding landscape, and is a prominent monolith of igneous rock. The tower is the monument’s primary resource, as identified in its enabling legislation, yet its vertical aspects and summit can only be seen by those with technical rock climbing experience. High resolution imaging allow the park staff to discern fine details of the tower surface, including erosional cracks, and provide a snapshot-in-time document of rock quality conditions. This dataset is used as a baseline to evaluate potential rock fall areas of concern. The digital 3D model also allows the park to display climbing routes, pre-plan for rescue operations, and examine nesting sites commonly used by peregrine falcons.

In October 2016, the USGS and the NPS set out to collect the high resolution imagery required to generate the 3D digital dataset of the tower. Prior to the actual flights, NPS personnel climbed the tower to place several ground-control targets and conducted ground-truth surveys of ground texture and vegetation. The UAS flights were conducted with a 3DR Robotics Solo quadcopter utilizing a Ricoh GR II camera payload. Sections of the viewing trail were closed for public safety while UAS flights were conducted. Twenty flights, over a three-day period, yielded more than 2,000 overlapping photos. The data was processed using photogrammetry (structure-from-motion) algorithms with surveyed ground control targets and scale markers to georeference the model in three dimensions.

Video from the GoPro Hero mounted on the 3DR Robotics Solo quadcopter
Animation built from the Photogrammetric 3D Model

Dense point cloud model of Devils Tower generated from the acquired Ricoh imagery
Dense point cloud model of Devils Tower generated from the acquired Ricoh imagery
Generated orthophoto mosaic overlaid with the derived 1-foot contour intervals
Generated orthomosaic overlaid with the derived 1-foot contour intervals
Close up of the 3D model generated to show detailed rock surface features
Close up of the 3D model generated to show detailed rock surface features

Study Point of Contact

Rene Ohms
National Park Service Coordinator
Devils Tower, Wyoming
Phone: 307-467-5283 ext. 212
Email: rene_ohms@nps.gov

Publications

Photos and Data Products

View/Download Modeling Poster Adobe PDF