The massive and systematic 3D digitisation of cities is one of the major ICT challenges of the upcoming years. Indeed, the production of reliable 3D urban models is a prerequisite towards the development of autonomous vehicles, urban drones, and more generally the numerical management of cities. In return, these vehicles will be capable of updating the 3D models in real time, enabling the establishment of continuous 4D urban models.

If scanning a building or a small neighbourhood using photogrammetry is now state of the art, no current solution scale well at the level of an entire city. One of the major challenges in digitising a city resides in the sheer quantity of data to be acquired and the processing power required to transform those images into valid 3D models.

This project is an attempt to progress in this direction by developing a vehicle, the ScanVan, capable of scanning cities. By deploying several of those vehicles in the streets, high quality models could be produced in real time. The ScanVan is equipped with a spherical camera (4π) capable of turning surrounding environments into point clouds while driving. This vehicle possesses its own computation system aboard: a dedicated cluster relying on field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and other computational resources especially conceived and optimised for photogrammetric computation.

The project is being led by Digital Humanities Laboratory DHLAB of the ÉCOLE POLYTECHNIQUE FÉDÉRALE DE LAUSANNE EPF and runs from 2016-2020.

Source: “ScanVan: A distributed 3D digitalization platform for cities”