The Project

Based on my epiphany in Havana I have endeavored to achieve the following.

  • I will build, from parts only, a multi-rotor remote controlled aircraft as a stabilized camera platform.
  • I will use traditional photography in addition to the multi-rotor to capture images of large scale structures.
  • These images will in turn be used to render textured 3D models  of said structures.
  • I will document this entire process.  Including the multi-rotor build, multi-rotor calibration and programming, use in the field, and image processing.

I hope to use this process and resulting information as a means to inspire and educate others who are interested in using these tools themselves.  I believe that this system if properly implemented will have a large impact on many fields such as conservation, restoration, cultural heritage, and many others.

I will also endeavor to make the project accessible as possible in regards to price point, and as a guide to put interested parties on a path to success.

This will include:

  • Explanation of concepts and terminology.
  • Tips for getting started
  • Skills needed
  • Complete build example
  • Methods of use
  • Processing files
  • Safety concerns
  • Possibilities


For several years I have been an RC enthusiast.  Some might say I have been a bit obsessed.  I had always been interested in RC flying and when I was a young boy my dad and I built a small gas powered balsa wood plane.  Now this is not the fully controllable plane you might see these days.  It was tethered to a string much like a kite and you could only fly in a circle.  Which, as you might imagine  became very dizzying very fast and the poor plane didn’t survive past its maiden.  That concluded my RC experience for many years as we couldn’t afford to rebuild it.  In fact the price of all things RC at that time made it cost prohibitive for many people.

It wasn’t until just a couple of years ago that I discovered the hobby anew.  I purchased a little RC helicopter for my brother and was surprised by the quality, flight time, and maneuverability.  This got me very excited and I started doing some research.  I found a whole new world of RC and it was now much more affordable.  This new revolution in RC was due mainly to the advent and usage of Lithium Polymer batteries and brush less motors which replaced, for the most part, the expensive and messy gas motors.  Lithium polymer batteries are important because they can produce a tremendous amounts of sustained amperage over a long period of time.  This made electric models more realistic.  And so my obsession began.

It started with small helicopters.  Then larger helicopters built from parts.  This in turn led to airplanes which was how I found and began doing FPV flying.  FPV stands for First Person View and is as close as you can get to flying while sitting in on the ground.  It is incredible and tons of fun.  Soon after the airplanes and FPV came tricopters and quad copters which could provide full 3 dimensional freedom of movement and a very stable platform for cameras.  And so it went flying and exploring for many months.

Then came Cuba and photogrammetry.  Through my graduate program in Media Arts at New Mexico Highlands University I was offered the opportunity to travel to Cuba for photography and photogrammetry and an exchange of ideas.  During this trip I got to immerse myself int the world of photogrammetry while getting to document sculptures and historical sites.

While working on documenting large structures such as buildings in Havana it quickly became apparent that there were limitations associated with being at ground level for the photos.  I first realized it at the Plaza de Armas where we were taking photos of Hotel Santa Isabel.  Once we had rendered a preliminary model I realized that anything above your field of view would inevitably show up in the data as black holes.  The animated 3D model below illustrates these black holes.

That is when it hit me.  I can use multi-rotor RC aircraft to photograph the inaccessible areas.  And so it began.  My passion for photography and the RC world came together in a beautiful way.