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About Ecosynth

The Ecosynth technique represents a transformative approach for small scale, low-cost, user based ecological remote sensing that combines computer vision technology with digital images acquired using off-the-shelf cameras mounted on hobbyist aerial platforms.

Ecosynth is based on the automated computer vision technology and software Bundler created by Dr. Noah Snavely, which forms the basis of the popular web-app Photosynth.  Bundler combines automated feature identification and matching with sparse bundle adjustment techniques from photogrammetry to automatically determine the 3D structure of a scene based only on photos: no information about the camera calibration or orientation are required as that information is solved in the bundle adjustment process.
 
This means that we are able to conduct small-scale remote sensing campaigns for understanding local vegetation structure and ecology with only a basic camera taking photos continuously while mounted on a hobbyist aerial platform like a kite, RC plane or RC helicopter.  
 
The output of the Bundler process is a 3D point cloud representing features within the landscape that were observed and distinguished among multiple photographs that provided for an optimal three-dimensional solution.  These points can then be analyzed like a multiple return LiDAR point cloud to interpret a digital terrain model (DTM) and canopy heights.

Our recently published results on this work in the open source journal Remote Sensing, http://www.mdpi.com/2072-4292/2/4/1157/,  demonstrate that Ecosynth is an effective, low-cost, user-based system for ecological remote sensing that produces estimates of canopy height comparable to LiDAR, although there is certainly room for improvement.

The purpose of this website is to provide a portal for researchers and citizen scientists that want to use the Ecosynth system at their own research sites or in their neighborhoods.  Using Ecosynth, researchers can obtain their own accurate 3D remote sensing data on an as-needed basis and at a very low cost.  Citizen scientists can use Ecosynth to explore the ecology of their own neighborhoods, yards and property; asking questions like: "How much biomass is in my neighborhood?"
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