Reservoir inspections more accessible using drones and 3D digital replicas

Photo-realistic, contextualised digital replicas of reservoirs using drones and proprietary photographic software.

Timely inspection and maintenance of water reservoirs is critical to the integrity of transmission networks.

Our Client

Bulkwater authority


Asset value

$9+ billion


2+ million people

Traditionally, inspections involved site visits, manual photography of specific interest areas, off-site review, follow-up inspections and eventually a report – a slow, risky, inconsistent and expensive process. Often data from subsequent inspections isn’t captured consistently or stored centrally, which makes it inaccessible and difficult to correlate from one inspection to the next. Our client sought a new approach that would overcome many of these challenges.

Greater accuracy, safety and accessibility

We combined the use of drones and an in-house developed application called PhotVis to create 3D digital replicas of assets. These 3D models present a photo-realistic, 3D, contextualised digital replica of each asset requiring inspection.

A single drone was used to fly over the reservoir and capture photos of the entire site. For any areas that weren’t accessible by a drone, we used other devices to capture images, including mobile phone cameras.

We imported the photographic data into photogrammetry processing software. This software uses geo-spatial information to triangulate a position and photo angle in 3D. If there are any areas where the UAV is not able to access, manual photography can be undertaken using any device that is available, including mobile phone cameras.

The photographic data was imported into photogrammetry processing software which triangulated a position, aligned and angled each photo in 3D space. We then imported the camera alignments and mesh surfaces into PhotoVis which spatially contextualised the photos and projected them onto the mesh surface, creating a photo-realistic model of the asset.

The client then used the model to carry out desk-top inspections of the site, identify degradation such as cracks and corrosion, and flag them for maintenance and repair.

Drone taking pictures of Res

Faster, safer asset management

As a result of this approach, the client was able to:

— Reduce inspection time and cost by up to 80%

— Eliminate the need to work at heights or in confined spaces, improving safety

— Reduce data loss and inconsistency and improve ability to compare and inspect records

— Allow anyone to access the asset’s digital version, making access more equitable and safer

Find out more or get a customized solution from GHD today.