Cordilleran Section - 115th Annual Meeting - 2019

Paper No. 35-4
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM


SETHI, Parvinder, EDGELL, Rebecca and MAY, Michaela, Department of Geology, Radford University, Box - 6939, Radford, VA 24142-6939

Advances in image-data acquisition have ushered-in a new era of visual analysis of complex terrains and smaller hand-sized samples. In addition to physical geology applications techniques involving GigaPan, UAV [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles] or drones, and 3D modeling are rapidly becoming tools-of-choice for environmental and engineering studies.

In this paper we discuss the design, strengths and weaknesses of each of the aforementioned tools – as utilized at the Department of Geology at Radford University. GigaPan, in its essence, is a robotic cradle that interfaces with a 35mm camera (either a zoom-enabled compact or a DSLR). After establishing the Nodal Point (or the Point of Zero Parallax) the robot triggers the camera to take hundreds to thousands of high-resolution photographs in a pre-determined set of X-Y coordinates. Images are then stitched using the proprietary StitchEFX software to produce remarkably high-resolution and super-sized (Giga-pixel in size) panoramic images that can then be interacted with via ‘snap-shots’ or ‘hot-spots’ drawn on the GigaPan by the creator. Examples of introductory-level lab exercises will be shared that include embedded field scales to allow for data collection, statistical analyses and testing hypotheses.

In addition to GigaPans, drones are being used for data acquisition of complex and sometimes hazardous geological landscapes. Examples of geological scenarios where we have been able to successfully use drones through Radford University’s ‘Geohazards Research Center’ will be shared. In particular we will present results of a comparative study of drones versus the GigaPan with the goal of determining which technique/tool is better suited to what set of environmental conditions or constraints.

Lastly, we will showcase work for imaging hand-sized mineral, rock and archeological samples and generating 3D models from them. We have been utilizing the Agisoft Photoscan and web-based Sketchfab software for rendering, generating and hosting the 3D images online with exceptionally good results. Best practices to be shared will include how to use annotations and the use of a scale. Such applications hold promise for virtual reality and distance learning - both fields that are projected to grow exponentially in the near future.