Cultural Heritage Recording Utilising Low-Cost Closerange Photogrammetry

Melanie Kirchhöfer, Jim Chandler, Rene Wackrow


Cultural heritage is under a constant threat of damage or even destruction and comprehensive and accurate recording is necessary to attenuate the risk of losing heritage or serve as basis for reconstruction. Cost effective and easy to use methods are required to record cultural heritage, particularly during a world recession, and close-range photogrammetry has proven potential in this area. Off-the-shelf digital cameras can be used to rapidly acquire data at low cost, allowing non-experts to become involved. Exterior orientation of the camera during exposure ideally needs to be established for every image, traditionally requiring known coordinated target points. Establishing these points is time consuming and costly and using targets can be often undesirable on sensitive sites. MEMS-based sensors can assist in overcoming this problem by providing small-size and low-cost means to directly determine exterior orientation for close-range photogrammetry. This paper describes development of an image-based recording system, comprising an off-the-shelf digital SLR camera, a MEMS-based 3D orientation sensor and a GPS antenna. All system components were assembled in a compact and rigid frame that allows calibration of rotational and positional offsets between the components. The project involves collaboration between English Heritage and Loughborough University and the intention is to assess the system’s achievable accuracy and practicability in a heritage recording environment. Tests were conducted at Loughborough University and a case study at St. Catherine’s Oratory on the Isle of Wight, UK. These demonstrate that the data recorded by the system can indeed meet the accuracy requirements for heritage recording at medium accuracy (1-4cm), with either a single or even no control points. As the recording system has been configured with a focus on low-cost and easy-to-use components, it is believed to be suitable for heritage recording by non-specialists. This offers the opportunity for lay people to become more involved in their local heritage, an important aspiration identified by English Heritage. Recently, mobile phones (smartphones) with integrated camera and MEMS-based orientation and positioning sensors have become available. When orientation and position during camera exposure is extracted, these phones establish off-the-shelf systems that can facilitate image-based recording with direct exterior orientation determination. Due to their small size and low-cost they have potential to further enhance the involvement of lay-people in heritage recording. The accuracy currently achievable will be presented also.


close-range photogrammetry, heritage recording, orientation sensor, low-cost, smartphones


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