Cultural Heritage Inspection with Intel® Falcon™ 8+ System: Hwahongmun Gate of Suwon Hwaseong

The use of Intel drone technology is helping to preserve cultural landmarks by capturing thousands of high-resolution images of areas proven difficult or dangerous for human access and providing a 3D digital replica of the current structure for detailed assessment.1

Located in Suwon, South Korea near Seoul, the Suwon Hwaseong fortress stands as a stunning example of Korean architecture and history. Built during the Joseon Dynasty in 1796, it represents 18th century military architecture, incorporating some of the best scientific ideas from Europe and East Asia. As an important symbol of Korean culture and history, Suwon Hwaseong was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997.

The Hwahongmun Gate is located at the head of the Suwoncheon stream, which flows through the fortress. The gate, which rises approximately 20 meters in height, has seven arches for the water to flow through as well as an ornate top structure which covered the line of defensive cannons.

The Challenge

Visual inspection of the gates of the Suwon Hwaseong fortress has traditionally been very costly and required utilizing many technical and personnel resources. In addition to the standard maintenance and repair, the structures must be meticulously surveyed, accounted, and reverse engineered so that any damage can be assessed and reconstructed appropriately. The Suwon Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management department was open to exploring new methods of restoration assessment using Intel drone technology.

The Solution

Using the Intel® Falcon™ 8+ system and 36 mega-pixel Sony A7R* payload, Intel’s strategic partner, DRONEID, was able to physically survey and inspect the Hwahongmun Gate in just a few hours.

A total of 15 automated flight plans were created with Intel® Mission Control software totaling about one hour of overall flight time when implemented. The flights alone produced approximately 2200 images which were supplemented by 400 standard images of the interior taken with a handheld camera. In post processing, the possibilities of the raw image workflow were used to equalize the differences between bright light conditions of the exterior and shadow of the interior. The enhanced images were put through the photogrammetry post processing to create a 3D point cloud, a triangulated 3D model, and orthomosaics of the different parts of the facades.

The Result

Thousands of detailed images of the exterior of the Hwahongmun Gate were captured by the Intel® Falcon™ 8+ system enabling the team to create accurate orthomosaics and 3D models. These images were captured and processed quickly without posing risk to the gate or conservationist personnel. When compared with traditional inspection methods, utilizing the Intel Falcon 8+ drone saved an incredible amount of time and money while also producing more accurate and detailed digital models.

As an added benefit, the Suwon Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management can use the detailed 3D models of Suwon Hwahongmun Gate to create a virtual reality (VR) viewing experience for tourists.

The orthomosaics and 3D models resulting from the project are now allowing conservation teams to more rapidly and appropriately evaluate the condition of the Hwahongmun Gate. By using drone data, documentation of the recent status of the gate will enable smart repairs to be done in the future through monitoring the buildings and taking action where it is really needed. The incredible work enabled by DRONEID and the Intel® Falcon™ 8+ system is not only driving better preservation of such landmarks as the Hwahongmun Gate today, but it is helping future generations celebrate this important aspect of Korean culture and history.

About Intel® Mission Control Software:

Intel® Mission Control software is the next generation solution for flight planning, project management, and data handling for the Intel® Falcon™ 8+ system. It is designed to enable advanced automation for increased workflow efficiency. The software comes with multiple layers for airspace information and visual support. There are pre-defined mapping modes for 2D and 3D automated mission planning and including automated flight plan calculation, safety, and pre-flight and system checks. The software features automated adaption for elevation of terrain; aiding with maintaining a constant altitude above ground level for data consistency and optimum ground sample distance. After the execution of the flight, the software enables a quick preview so that that UAV operator can inspect the quality of the data collection in a 3D format. This preview can inform the pilot on area coverage and data coverage statistics, and also enable the user to inspect individual images. The flight data can then be easily exported for further processing.

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