French city of Pau modeled in 3D

With an area of 12 sq. miles and set beautifully between the Pyrenees mountains and the Atlantic ocean, Pau is the main city of the Pau Béarn Pyrénées Agglomeration council (which spans 31 councils and covers close to 150 sq. miles). Known as “The City of Art & History”, Pau has always had an innovative & progressive approach to adopting new technology. As part of their smart city approach, the agglomeration council actively develops and maintains a repository of digital data to improve knowledge, management and the prospective development of its heritage and its territory.

After a world-wide capability search and an international competitive tendering process in 2019, the agglomeration commissioned Aerometrex and its partner French company IGO SAS to produce a 3D model of the old city, including its historic castle, at a resolution approaching a few mm in pixel size. Aerometrex began working on the project in June 2019 and the final 3D model was released in the beginning of 2020.

This project was a ground-breaking implementation of the science of massive multi-ray photogrammetry, involving the geometric reconstruction of more than 100,000 2D images taken from helicopter, drone and on foot.

The model delivered resolutions ranging from 2 cm up to 3 mm, all stitched into a single 3D city mesh, enabling seamless interaction by users. The ability to process this massive volume of data (over 5 TB) generated by these 3 perspectives over a whole city center into a photo-realistic 3D environment provides users with an unparalleled immersive visual experience.

The City of Pau was captured from a helicopter platform by Aerometrex and completed with drone captures over specific landmark buildings such as the Castle as well as street-level capture in the old town. Triangulation was performed using the powerful capability of Agisoft Metashape and the reconstruction of the 3D mesh performed in Bentley Context Capture. Artifacts such as cars, people, distorted glass windows and facades were corrected to generate a clean, accurate and seamless multi-scale 3D mesh. The resulting 3D meshes were integrated into the interactive 3D platform Skyline TerraExplorer Pro / Skyline Globe along with additional GIS information and geospatial data to provide internal and external stakeholders with a desktop/online data portal and powerful 3D capabilities including analysis, design and communication tools.

According to Jean-Michel Lopez, the Project Manager from the client’s side this 3D model opens a multitude of opportunities to their community, businesses and individuals, across fields such as urban planning, transportation and logistics, tourism and economics, risk management, and heritage documentation.

This project illustrates the global reach of Aerometrex’s 3D modelling service as well as the degree of 3D technical excellence that now exists in the company. The level of detail and accuracy is seen through features visible in the model, such as lichens on the roof slates, the leaves of climbing plants, or the smallest hollows in building reliefs.

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