AbstractThis paper presents a 3D reconstruction method for fast elevation determination on construction sites. The proposed method is intended to automatically and accurately determine construction site elevations using drone-based, low–high orthoimage pairs. This method requires fewer images than other methods for covering a large target area of a construction site. An up–forward–down path was designed to capture approximately 2∶1-scale images at different altitudes over target stations. A pixel grid matching and elevation determination algorithm was developed to automatically match images in dense pixel grid-style via self-adaptive patch feature descriptors, and simultaneously determine elevations based on a virtual elevation model. The 3D reconstruction results were an elevation map and an orthoimage at each station. Then, the large-scale results of the entire site were easily stitched from adjacent results with narrow overlaps. Moreover, results alignment was automatically performed via the U-net detected ground control point. Experiments validated that in 10–20 and 20–40 orthoimage pairs, 92% of 2,500- and 4,761-pixels were matched in the strongest and strong levels, which was better than sparse reconstructions via structure from motion; moreover, the elevation measurements were as accurate as photogrammetry using multiscale overlapping images.

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