Tampa Water Tower Photogrammetry Project

The University of South Florida’s new Access 3D Lab helps conduct research in the digital realm and is open to all faculty and students of USF.

People can use 3D scanners in the lab. The lab also works on projects like digital sculpting, photogrammetry, creation of virtual museums and forensic analysis.

Dr. Laura Harrison, director of the Access 3D Lab, is a research assistant professor at USF. She was inspired to create the Access 3D Lab due to her interest in cultural heritage preservation. Originally trained as a Bronze Age archaeologist, Harrison became more interested in 3D virtualization while doing research at a threatened site in Turkey. She aims to educate non-specialists and children in archaeological heritage.

“You can bring in outside interests that you might have in other fields and explore how 3D is used in that area. All faculty, students and researchers can use the lab and its resources free of charge.”

                                                        Credit: Natalie Eiland

Students and faculty can use the Access 3D Lab’s equipment for their own research. The lab offers training and workshops on equipment. Individual or group lessons are available along with courses that range from three to five days. In order to complete the course, it takes about 10 to 20 hours of hands-on training. The lab is currently working on several project collaborations.

USF’s video production instructor, Ryan Watson, is experienced in videography and drone flying. He worked with the Access 3D Lab on a photogrammetry project. Watson flew his drone around the Sulphur Springs Water Tower located in Tampa. He took hundreds of pictures from different heights and angles. These pictures were then taken back to the Access 3D Lab and were stitched together using the photogrammetry software at the lab’s computer workstations.

                                                        Credit: Natalie Eiland

“I’ve been in Tampa for about 15 years and always used to drive past the water tower and I wondered what it was, I used to think it was a lighthouse. But then through research I figured out it was a water tower.”

To achieve the most detailed and high-quality finished product, the computer software Agisoft PhotoScan generated a texture map. The map contains the 2-dimensional layout of the landscape around the water tower, incorporating color information used to make the 3-dimensional model. This texture map applied that information to the water tower model which contributed to creating the finished model with the highest quality of detail. The lab was able to get the most accurate data from the finished product.

“All the detail was there from taking so many pictures, I overloaded and took way more than I needed to take but it came out very well.”

                                                         Credit: Natalie Eiland

Watson also has a drone course at USF that teaches students how to fly drones to take pictures and videos. The class will be working with the Access 3D Lab by conducting the same kind of project as the Tampa water tower but will fly around a building of their own choice. Before taking the pictures with their drones, the students will sit through a lecture given by some of the instructors of the Access 3D Lab on how to take the best pictures to get the most detailed finished product. The pictures that the students take will be brought back to the Access 3D Lab where the students themselves will learn how to stitch the pictures together using the photogrammetry software.