MICHIGAN CENTRAL aerial image by Dandelion Air & Pix4D

Drone-based 3D modeling in architecture

Before the Michigan Central Station is changed forever by renovations, drone modeling captured it in 3D.

The Beaux-Arts iconic landmark building, designed by the Warren & Wetmore and Reed & Stem architecture firms (who also designed New York City’s Grand Central Terminal) opened its doors on January 4, 1914. The last train pulled away from the station on January 6, 1988. Its doors have remained closed ever since.

The abandoned building stands tall and majestic—awaiting redevelopment.

CompanyDandelion Air
LocationDetroit, Michigan (USA)
Project dateJuly 2017
Project managerAleksey Bochkovsky
Number of images739
DeviceDJI Phantom 4 Pro
Processing softwarePix4Dmodel
GSD3.69 cm / 1.45 in

Passion for architecture

Aleksey Bochkovsky, Dandelion Air Founder, discovered a passion for architecture when he started flying drones three years ago.

“Drones enable us to capture details, intricacies, and beauty of a structure not easily seen from the ground level. During my last trip to Detroit, Michigan—currently experiencing a developmental upswing—a number of historic buildings caught my attention. One of them is the famous Michigan Central Station.”

Collage Michigan Central Dandelion Pix4D

Serving as a major railroad hub and office space back in its heyday, the building still stands tall and powerful, albeit empty. Aleksey felt the need to capture it in this moment in time, before redevelopment plans roll ahead. He used a combination of still images, videos and a 3D model generated with Pix4D, to create a multimedia imprint of this marvelous creation.

These materials are valuable in a redevelopment project, for marketing the project, to develop architectural visions and to monitor the reconstruction process.

Double grid + free flight image acquisition

The image capture stage took two days, due to the changing weather conditions. The strong winds were one of the main challenges. Keeping the horizon out of the frame while shooting oblique images of such a tall structure was also challenging.

The pilot flew a combination of a double grid mission with Pix4Dcapture and a free flight with DJI Go, obtaining a total of 739 images.

Michigan Central Image Capture Dandelion Air Pix4D

Michigan Central Station in 3D

Pre-processing the images using Adobe Lightroom, enhanced consistency and corrected colors. The processing with Pix4Dmodel on a 2015 MacBook Pro was possible by installing Windows 10.

The addition of a small number of MTPs and point-cloud editing helped to achieve the final result.

See the presentation.

Flexible, affordable, reliable

“After trying a number of drone-oriented 3D modeling solutions, Pix4Dmodel came out on top because of offered features, flexibility, reliability, speedy processing, and affordable license cost."

Michigan Gentral Dandalion Pix4D

"The option of being able to generate models quickly in the cloud and then perfect them on a desktop client with available editing tools was also key in making my decision.” – Aleksey Bochkovsky, Dandelion Air Founder

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