How to use drones and photogrammetry for creating digital twins

Written by
Brooke Hahn
May 5, 2023

Digital twin technology has gained significant traction over the past few years. (Check us out at the Digital Built World Summit a few months ago!) Applications range from building design to infrastructure management to natural resource conservation. At its core, digital twin technology involves creating a virtual representation of a physical asset such as a building, bridge, or natural environment, that can be used for a variety of purposes such as simulation, monitoring, and predictive maintenance.

One of the key challenges in creating a digital twin is obtaining accurate and up-to-date data about the physical asset. Well the great news is, drones (and photogrammetry shortly after) can solve this! 


Drones equipped with high-quality cameras and sensors can collect vast amounts of data about physical assets quickly and efficiently. Once the data is collected, it can then be processed using G software like to create detailed 2D orthophoto visualizations and 3D point cloud models for use in digital twin applications.

3D Birdi Point cloud
3D Point Cloud

How drones and photogrammetry are used in digital twin creation

Photogrammetry is the process of using photographs to create 3D models of physical objects. It involves taking multiple overlapping photographs of an object or scene from different angles and then using software like Birdi to stitch the photos together and create a 3D model. The resulting model can be used for a variety of purposes, including visualisation, measurement, and analysis.

With drones, you can easily capture images from different angles and heights, providing a comprehensive view of the physical asset being modelled. Drones can also reach areas that are difficult or dangerous for humans to access, such as the tops of buildings, the undersides of bridges, or rugged natural terrain.

The benefits of using drones and photogrammetry for digital twin

Using drones and photogrammetry to create digital twins has a number of benefits, including:

Improved accuracy:

Drones equipped with high-quality cameras and sensors can capture extremely detailed images and data about physical assets. This data can then be used to create highly accurate 3D models that are faithful representations of the physical asset. This level of accuracy is particularly important in applications such as architecture, construction and engineering, where even small deviations from the physical reality can have significant consequences.

Faster data collection:

Drones can collect vast amounts of data about physical assets quickly and efficiently. This means that digital twin models can be created and updated more frequently, providing more up-to-date information for decision-making and analysis.

Cost savings:

Drones can significantly reduce the cost of data collection for digital twin applications. Traditional methods like manual inspections or ground-based surveys, are time-consuming and labour-intensive. Drones can collect data much faster and with less manpower, resulting in significant cost savings for organisations.

Safer data collection:

Drones can access areas that are difficult or dangerous for humans to reach. This can improve safety for workers and reduce the risk of accidents or injuries.

More comprehensive data:

Drones can capture data from multiple angles and heights, providing a more comprehensive view of the physical asset being modeled. This can lead to better insights and more accurate predictions about the behaviour of the asset over time.

2D Birdi orthophoto
2D orthophoto

Digital twin use cases

There are a range of examples of how drones and photogrammetry are being used to create digital twins across a variety of applications and industries. For example, in architecture and construction, drones can be used to create 3D models of buildings and construction sites. These models can then be used for design visualization, construction planning, and safety analysis.

In infrastructure management, drones can be used to create digital twins of bridges, highways, and other infrastructure assets. These models can be used to monitor the condition of the asset over time, identify potential maintenance issues, and optimise maintenance schedules.

In natural resource conservation, drones can be used to create digital twins of forests, wetlands, and other ecosystems. These models can be used to monitor changes in the environment over time, identify potential threats to biodiversity, and inform conservation efforts.

To utilise drones and photogrammetry in creating digital twin models, organizations can either hire their own drone pilots in-house (or perhaps drone piloting is already an existing skill in a team members’ toolkit!), or they can outsource drone data capture to experts. (This is a good time to mention that Birdi’s Ultimate customers can access our pilot network of over 2,000 qualified drone pilots, who can capture anywhere around Australia). Regardless of how the data is captured, you then need to process it via software like Birdi into 2D orthophotos as well as 3D models (you can easily visualize the data in our platform as well as share it with relevant stakeholders with a few simple clicks).

From improving accuracy and speed of data collection to reducing costs and improving safety, drones and photogrammetry are transforming the way that digital twins are created and utilised in a variety of industries. If you're interested in understanding how digital twins could better support your organization, feel free to book a demo with us and we'd be happy to discuss further!

Brooke Hahn
Brooke has been involved in SaaS startups for the past 10 years. From marketing to leadership to customer success, she has worked across the breadth of teams and been pivotal in every company's strategy and success.