Sony Alpha mirrorless cameras Skyfish drones

How Sony Alpha mirrorless cameras conduct photogrammetry via Skyfish drones

Drone operators have a new, solid option for using Sony Alpha mirrorless cameras to conduct photogrammetry via an American-made drone. Missoula, Montana-based Skyfish announced this week that its drones are now capable of technical integration with Sony Electronics’ Alpha series mirrorless cameras.

Sony launched its own Sony Airpeak S1 drone in 2021 as the world’s smallest drone that can be equipped with a full-size mirrorless interchangeable-lens Alpha camera. It has incredible stability in harsh conditions and has smart image capture features that replicate shots a dolly or rig might be able to take on a highlight-coordinated Hollywood film set. It’s $9,000, not including the camera. And while it’s been generally well-received, it’s more focused at the cinematography set of pilots — not the engineering-minded ones.

Sony Airpeak S1 drone
Sony Electronics’ Airpeak S1 Professional Drone

Meanwhile, Skyfish’s drones have long been capable of carrying Sony Alpha mirrorless cameras, but this month’s news means the company’s proprietary algorithms and accurate metadata should theoretically be able to create precise 3D models from its drones. But today’s news means that means drone operators looking for high-quality, aerial data capture and drone-enabled photogrammetry have a new, solid option — and an American-made drone as an option, at that.

Sony Alpha mirrorless cameras Skyfish drones

Sony Alpha mirrorless cameras integrating with Skyfish: why it’s important for photogrammetry

In short, people working in photogrammetry. Photogrammetry is an engineering science that combines photography, math and metadata to generate 3D models (or digital twins) of large pieces of infrastructure, say a cell tower, bridges, roadways, wind turbines, power lines or an oil and gas pipeline. Those models can then be used for precision inspection, measurement and analysis of physical features. And if done correctly with the right equipment (say, a Skyfish drone), infrastructure models are measurable and accurate to within 1/32 of an inch.

Photogrammetry has become a priority for Skyfish especially since mid-2021 when cell tower industry veteran Steven Bernstein joined the Skyfish team as an investor and member on its Board of Directors. Upon his appointment, Bernstein said he saw Skyfish’s niche in the commercial drone world as an American drone maker that could produce precise, ‘engineering  grade’ drone enabled photogrammetry and 3D Models of infrastructure. Bernstein said he felt Skyfish produced among the best cell tower digital-twin models he had seen at the time — and that could improve with the Sony integration.

Photo courtesy of Skyfish

Other popular drones for photogrammetry include the Phantom 4 Pro, which has been acclaimed for its features like GSPro software, which shows estimated photos, acreage, flight time and batteries, as well as the drone’s mechanical shutter. Some studies have suggested that the DJI Phantom 4 performs better than traditional GPS methods in photogrammetry operations.

Related read: LiDAR vs. photogrammetry with drones: Which surveys need which imaging technology?

“The unique ability to remotely control a flying 61-megapixel camera in real-time lets us manage ISO, shutter speed, EVO and zoom while in flight, and collect the data and images required to generate highly accurate 3D photogrammetry models,” Dr. Orest Pilskalns, CEO of Skyfish, said in a prepared statement. “The high-quality data collected can then be stored, viewed, shared and exported in various formats from Skyportal, our secure, AWS-powered, customer data center.”

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