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BYU student creates 3D campus map from tens of thousands of photos

Dec 10, 2021, 2:00 PM
FILE --  Grad student creates 3D campus for master's project. 
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News...
FILE -- Grad student creates 3D campus for master's project. Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

PROVO, Utah — After taking 80,000 photos, Brigham Young University now has a 3D model of its campus.

During the height of pandemic lockdowns, Bryce Berrett, an engineering graduate student, hopped on the chance to capture images of campus with a drone in order to build a 3D model. 

“Our research group has been creating 3D models from aerial photos for a while now, but to do so we need to fly drones and we can’t do that safely with people underfoot,” Berrett said. “When the COVID pandemic hit and most classes went remote in 2020, we realized we had a unique opportunity to photograph campus.”

The main campus is 560-acres and hosts nearly 100 buildings. BYU also has 6,000 trees, many miles of walking paths and lots, and lots (and lots) of stairs.  

Berrett had his master’s project focus on the 3D map, with some support from his civil engineering professor, Kevin Franke.

Over the summer of 2020, their drone and camera took pictures during hundreds of flights gathering those 80,000 photos. All the images were processed with something called “Structure from motion“. 

“This is by far the largest project we’ve ever undertaken,” Franke said. “There is more area and more buildings for us to cover here then we have ever covered on any other site.”

So if you’re wondering why a 3D model of the BYU campus would be useful… you’re not alone. The model has a variety of uses. The model can be used to verify measurements, determine structure needs for repair, and even for pitching new buildings. 

You can model can be seen online, and even in a virtual reality app. The app will give new students the opportunity to experience the campus virtually. The university intends to keep adding to the model as technology improves.

“There are many, many applications for models like these and I think we are just scratching the surface of it,” Berrett said. “On a very basic level, it’s just a great opportunity to preserve our historical heritage here on this campus. This project has helped me to feel like I have something to give back for all of the wonderful opportunities I’ve had to learn at BYU.”

You can see the entire paper on the model here.

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