We explored an abandoned railroad tunnel in the name of research

December 11, 2017 Leidos Editorial Team

Above is a computer-generated animation of the Crozet tunnel using the data collected by drones.

There are a group of engineers within Leidos who have tunnel vision. Literally.

The Parallax 3D team (P3D) in the company's Advanced Solutions Group recently conducted a research and development project that involved an expedition of the historic Crozet railroad tunnel near Charlottesville, Va. Parallax 3D is a Leidos-developed Structure from Motion (SfM) software suite that takes photos or videos with ordinary cameras and mathematically manipulates them to produce 3D models viewable on-screen or with augmented or virtual reality goggles.

Always seeking to collaborate and learn from their peers, P3D's Crozet expedition was done in tandem with the University of Virginia, the Virginia Military Institute, and Skyclad Aerial. For Skyclad and UVA engineering professor Nicola Bezzo — and his students, Tony Lin and Esen Yel — the unique environment allowed them to try out their aerial and ground based drones and robots. 

Gary Rogers, a professor of engineering at VMI, also represents the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel Foundation, a historical society that monitors the tunnel. Rogers facilitated legal access to the tunnel with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Nelson County, while also serving as the expedition's guide.

Above is an example of a sparse point cloud generated by multiple passes of a drone through the Crozet tunnel. The red pyramids represent camera orientations and the overall line of them shows the drone's flight path. The points on the walls are mathematically derived using the parallax between video frames. 

The event was a great success, with all parties making an informal agreement to share data and collaborate on the results. There are also early plans for more cooperation in the future.

"High-quality results are still pending but, overall, we learned a lot and are starting to see some really great 3D models," said Jim Bush, Technical Lead for P3D.

The P3D team is still processing all of the data gathered from the expedition and will share the final models with its collaborators once they're completed. Internally, the team is going to use the data to improve the P3D software so that it can model and map out even the most inhospitable of environments.

(Video via Skyclad Aerial)


The Leidos Editorial Team consists of communications and marketing employees, contributing partner organizations, and dedicated freelance designers, editors, and writers.

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