Have you ever dreamt you're a bird, flying over a familiar city now foreign with new perspective? Operators of first-person-view drones often talk of experiencing a similar feeling — being "out of body" as the devices they control swerve between trees and buildings all the while beaming signals straight back to head-mounted displays in real time. A Silicon Valley-based company called Hivemapper is now giving all of us a chance to explore San Francisco in a similar manner with a new 3D map developed for drones that aims to be the Google Maps of the near-skies.
"By combining the power of artificial intelligence and drone videos we create a fresh 3D map of the earth to help humans see the earth from a new perspective and understand how it’s changing," the company explains on their website. "Everybody will be able to participate in creating the map by simply sharing their drone videos."
One example of their work, which intends to give drone operators knowledge of any potential mid-air obstacles, focuses on the Mission — specifically the area around Dolores Park. Clicking through allows for a seemingly pointillist-inspired look at the park from above, as well as the opportunity to click around the skies over the area. Select "click to play," and you'll be treated to a drone's view from that location.
"First we construct a 3D model from frames of a video," the company writes in a blog post announcing Flight View, as they call the new aerial map. "Creating a 3D model from imagery is fairly straightforward, and is one of the most common uses of drones in 2016. We take this one step further by georegistering these models into our 3D map of the world. This means that each point in the model is now tied to a precise location on the globe."
The work is pretty cool, and as long as basic privacy is respected and all laws are followed, looking at this data could be a way for a drone-wary public and drone operators to see eye to eye — looking down on the city from the same set of digital eyes.