Project Everest

Work Update

Energy Timor-Leste: Drone results

David Gailey
David Gailey | Dec 15, 2017 | in Knowledge Base

In recent years we have seen a massive increase in the use of drones as tools for businesses. Given the ever decreasing cost and rising capabilities of drones, it’s no wonder that more and more drones are flying out of stores as businesses integrate them into their operations.


Certainly Project Everest is not immune to this new trend given that several projects are currently using or experimenting with drones. Here in Timor-Leste, the energy team is looking at ways we can integrate drones into our plans. Presently as part of our partnership with IMEX Tropical, we are sourcing customers and performing preliminary evaluation of the advantages and viability of solar systems. A critical part of this is assessing roof space available for the panels to sit on.  Space, sunlight and shade are all critical factors in the placement and capacity of the panels. After all, what good is a solar panel that doesn’t produce electricity.


An idea that we have floating around is using drones to photograph buildings and potential customer sites. By performing multiple fly-arounds of the building at different altitudes and angles while photographing, the images can be combined to form a detailed 3D model of the building. This is known as photogrammetry. See the images below for an amazing example of this technology.


So, I hear you ask, what is the purpose of making 3D models of buildings other than just being really cool? Well first off, it allows us to get a detailed idea and plan of the roof space, its shape and also any objects on the roof such as an air conditioner. This would help us design and customise solar systems for potential customers. Secondly, we believe adding solar panels to the 3D model and showing it to the potential customer will give them a better idea of what we are trying to sell them and also alleviate some of their concerns. It would also show them what the building would look life after installation. Hence it could act as a marketing tool and display a greater sense of professionalism.


Finally, the 3D models can be imported into other design software where sunlight intensity and direction at different times can be simulated. Using this we could provide a simulation of the panels working over the course of the day and at different times of the year. This would help us determine the best placement of the panels, shading losses and the true generation capacity of the panels in a real situation. At the moment we are dealing with theoretical values so having accurately simulated values would go a long way in designing a solar system and providing the best possible product to customers. It would also give us a major advantage over potential competition.


So this is where I ask for your input. Has anyone got experience with doing what we are thinking of doing? Can anyone recommend good software? During our initial experimentation with this technology we don’t particularly want to fork out huge sums of money for software but it may be considered in the future if it proves useful.


In case you thought I droned on … here’s the short version:

Need advice on using drones to make 3D models of buildings.


We have conducted two test flights and taken over 450 images of our accommodation here in Dili. We've played around with a few programs and have managed to make a low resolution 3D model using images from one side of the building. Two screenshots of the model is attached.


David Gailey


edited on 2nd July 2018, 12:07 by Wade Tink

William Lee Dec 16, 2017

My architecture friend has recommended me three software programs:
Maya, Rhinocerous, and Sketchup - if you use Rhinocerous there is a plugin called echo tech which does the weather

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David Gailey Dec 18, 2017

Thanks William for your suggestions. We'll look into those programs.

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William Lee Dec 16, 2017

Maya, Rhinocerous, and Sketchup - if you use Rhinocerous there is a plugin called echo tech which does the weather

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Ciaran Hoare Dec 17, 2017

Do you need 3D models or just roof space calculation to begin with?
Is this something Drone Deploy could do?

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David Gailey Dec 18, 2017

Hi Ciaran. We certainly need roof space calculations but the 3D models provide additional information for planning, marketing and design. We could operate without the models but think they warrant a further research as we feel they do have potential.

Drone Deploy is certainly one of the apps we are looking at and will be testing this week.

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Alex Piatek Dec 20, 2017

What app/software have you trialled? How did the test flight go?

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David Gailey Dec 20, 2017

Hi Alex,

Yesterday we conducted two test flights around our accommodation here in Dili. While the first flight wasn't particularly successful as it only gathered five images, the second test flight was very successful and over the course of 15 minutes captured over 400 images of the building from different angles. These images were all 4000*3000 pixels and amounted to over 2gb of data. The first flight used Drone Deploy while the second used Altizure. Our preferred option based off the test flights is to use Altizure for future flights.

The problem now is processing the images into a model. We had hoped that we could use Altizure or Aerial 360 3D for the processing but both these programs will not allow the processing of so many images without paying. They both also required all the images to be uploaded to a website which, given the price of data in Timor, was going to be a costly and slow solution.

Instead we are experimenting with some open sourced software such as Colmap and Regard 3D. Both of these, while free, are much more complicated and require time to learn how to use them. It does also mean that the processing of images is done on our computers. The processing is taking time as we don't have access to high powered computers here. But we are making progress.

So in essence, two steps forward, one step back.

Attached is an example of one of the photos we took.

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Wade Tink Jul 2, 2018

Status label added: Work Update

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