Stories from across the Asia Pacific

3D map allows investors to try before they buy


Aerial mapping company Aerometrex releases interactive 3D model of Adelaide

Comments Print article

A detailed and highly accurate interactive 3D model of Adelaide, South Australia will give property developers and town planners an unprecedented view of the capital city.

Aerial mapping company Aerometrex took thousands of high-resolution photographs from a helicopter over Adelaide’s central business district to develop the interactive city model with the help of Adelaide City Council.

According to Adelaide Lord Mayor Martin Haese, the city is the first government body in the world to make an entire 3D model – worth an estimated $250,000 –available for free with no restrictions on its use, and in several formats that make it especially useful for urban planning and simulation, scientific research and gaming.

“Adelaide City Council also has a good record in this space, as it was the very first council in Australia to develop a complete 3D digital city model back in 2009,” Lord Mayor Haese said.

Aerometrex Technical Director David Byrne said the models could be used in conjunction with compatible software to allow developers, architects or town planners to place a building in a location on the map to get a feel for its impact on the streetscape.

“Then you can start doing things like casting shadows to see what impact it has on its surrounds, you can do line of sight to see what the view is like from a particular location,” he said.

Nathan Paine, the director of Property Consulting Australia, said digital mapping like this is critical to the way cities are planned now and into the future.

“A main benefit is the ease of communicating the benefits to the community; showing them the height of a building in context,” Paine said.

Paine said the 3D mapping also provided international investors with certainty around the planning regime of Adelaide.

“It shows what’s possible and what’s achievable,” Paine said.

Lord Mayor Haese said digital 3D modelling technology helps visualise the capital city’s future.

“As a dynamic and growing city, Adelaide’s skyline has changed dramatically over the last 10 years and cutting-edge technology like this helps plan for the future,” he said.

Byrne said taking higher resolution photographs and more of them helped achieve a greater level of detail than other 3D modelling, such as Google Maps.

He said the use of automatic processing software rather than traditional hand digitised methods also allowed for greater detail.

“Using a helicopter as opposed to a fixed-wing aircraft provides a much more flexible platform for capturing imagery so we can make sure we get into every little gap between tight buildings and so forth, which often other models struggle with,” he said.

“We’re using automatic processing so if the object is in the imagery it tends to get modelled as long as it’s stationary. So we’re modelling everything from street furniture to trees and parked cars – it’s a very comprehensive data set and much more life like.

“We struggle to know of any data sets that exist to cover such an area in such a high level of detail so we consider ourselves to be world leaders with this sort of technology.”

“We take all that imagery and tie it all together using common features from one photograph to the next. We also collect a lot of GPS ground control of a lot of known features, we then control that data set to the real world,” Byrne said.

“Using intersecting rays of light we create lots of 3D points then we join all of those points together to create a mesh and we place the original imagery back over that mesh to give it a realistic look.

“We also do quite a bit of manual work to tidy it up, for example, we removed all the moving cars on the roads.”



The Adelaide-based company was engaged to create a 3D model of Philadelphia to help with planning ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to the American city in September last year.

“We hope to engage some more USA interest on the back of that going forward and of course we also do a bit in New Zealand as well.”

Aerometrex aims to create similar 3D models of other major Australian cities and sell them to city councils, state governments, planners, architects, marketing companies and developers.

Aerometrex’s core business in aerial photography stretches across many industries from engineering to sports broadcasting, planning and mining exploration.

Byrne said 3D modelling was becoming an increasingly important part of the business as technology moved beyond traditional 2D imagery.

“We’ve made sure we’re right up with the latest technology and providing state of the art products to set ourselves up for the future as demand for this 3D information grows,” he said.

“Most of the work we do is project based so people engage us for their specific area and we go and capture it and provide the data for them but for the capital cities or the central business districts we see multiple resale potential.”

More Investing stories