Video: Drones From the Faculty of Electrical Engineering Are Mapping the Church of St. Moritz in Olomouc

Unmanned helicopters with on-board intelligence, or robotic drones, are helping the conservationists during the restoration of the St. Moritz Church in Olomouc. They have been developed by the Multirobotic Systems group from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering (FEL) as part of a unique project called Dronument (Dron&Monument) supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic and in cooperation with the National Heritage Institute (NHI).
A video from FEL CTU describes the procedures of recording precious historical values in the interior of a church in Olomouc, which is being prepared for a complete reconstruction.

The video gives an insight into the process of scanning the Gothic church in the centre of Olomouc, whose construction began in the second half of the 13th century. “In the beginning, a technician makes a 3D scan of the church using a ground-based scanner. This provides a basis for the conservationists to select spots that are important to them and which will be photographed by drones. From the 3D model, the unique system can autonomously plan a flight trajectory, which the drone operator then just confirms as being safe and with a sufficient distance from obstacles,” explains doc. Martin Saska, head of the Multirobotic Systems (MRS) group at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering. Drones can document places that are not accessible by other conventional means, such as platforms or scaffolding, from different angles.

The actual aerial work will be done very quickly. The formation of cooperating drones fly fully autonomously, so there is no need for an operator or pilot to control them from the ground. The drones have divided tasks, with one carrying a camera and the others carrying light sources that illuminate the scene at a predetermined angle. The robot experts just place the drones at the launch site and press a button. The drones themselves take the required photos, return to the take-off point, and the operators just download the material from the disk.

“In the future, we will try to miniaturize the drones we use and design a system that could be operated by conservationists themselves without technical training. They will be able to control the drones through a simple user interface and the drone itself would carry out the task they set,” says doc. Martin Saska. This technological shift is possible thanks to the development of advanced software for autonomous flight by a research group of about 30 people working at the Department of Cybernetics at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering.

Recording precious interiors with the help of unmanned helicopters has a future even in the eyes of conservationists themselves. “We have already used the technology in about ten buildings and I think it is a vision of the future for documenting historical objects,” says Mgr. Michaela Čadilová, research and development officer at the National Heritage Institute. Thanks to the lighting, conservationists receive better and more plastic images, for example, they can observe small cracks in the mural or the state of the secondary cementing. The documentary materials taken by the drones will serve the restorers to prepare a restoration plan based on them.

In addition to the St. Moritz Church in Olomouc, drones from the MRS group help in the Coronation Hall of the castle in Kroměříž, St. Nicholas Church in Prague and the grotto in Gorzanów, Poland. Other locations include the castles in Plumlov or Vranov nad Dyjí or the pilgrimage church of St. Anne and St. James the Greater in Stara Voda near Libava. Although robotic drones are already a relatively widespread technology for mapping the exteriors of historical buildings, only the team of doc. Saska uses them to document interiors.

source: Petr Neugebauer, FEL ČVUT

About the Dronument project

The aim of the multidisciplinary project, supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic, in which the Multirobotic Systems Group of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and the National Heritage Institute participate, is to develop a methodology for the safe use of unmanned helicopters in mapping the interiors and exteriors of historical objects in places where conventional technologies cannot be used. We are using the world's unique technology of very precise helicopter control, which was developed within the Multirobotic Systems Group operating within the Department of Cybernetics of FEL CTU for the MBZIRC competition in Abu Dhabi, and which proved to be significantly the most reliable and successful of all the competition solutions. The ability to fly very accurately, and therefore safely, is crucial for the process of documenting parts of historical objects (in the form of photo and video documentation, 3D scanning or e.g. spectral analysis) that cannot be covered by ground-based documentation or external support infrastructure. More information including videos can be found via the link