How a Complex and Multi-Player Drone Mission Happens: The Virtualization of the USS Iowa


The Flight 

The team spent two days gathering aerial imagery and 3 days collecting terrestrial LiDAR scans.  The USS Iowa is not completely stable in water, and the hallways are narrow and difficult to navigate.  The team had to deal with weather, regulations and strict protocol – but were able to get all of the aerial product they needed in two days of filming. “…there was tremendous amount of pre-planning that went into this project including detailed operational and safety plan as our flights were limited to two four hour blocks conducted on two different days. We had no ability to adjust the times or dates once determined ahead of time (no matter weather).” said Doug Weidman of Sierra Skyworks.  “We ended up conducting all the Lidar imagery and video on the first 4 hour block.  We were able to conduct some inspection imagery (FLIR and Z30) the next day, but we had to fly between rain showers.  We were lucky to have completed the lidar and RGB mission on the first time block.”

The Product

At the end of the project, the team had aerial images, point clouds and photogrammetry mesh – these are used to create first a solid model of the ship and then the creation of a virtual experience of the ship.

“Each year hundreds of Americans and tourists alike flock to the USS Iowa Museum in San Pedro, CA to admire the 900 ft long USS Iowa Battleship. The retired ship, which played an important role in U.S history, holds 16-inch gun turrets and was once able to launch 2,700-pound shells up to 24 miles away,” says Yuval Caspi, marketing and community manager for the drone insurance provider, Skywatch.ai.

“Even with all of the stress surrounding their excursion, the virtualization project proved to be a major success…” says Caspi.  “The museum now has the tools that they could have never achieved without the use of laser-equipped drones. Now future generations will see and experience the museum, and explore the incredible USS Iowa ship, in a way that so many before did not get the chance to.”

Check out the video below, or find more information and images on the Adventures in Rediscovery blog.



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