Tip: Use an updated browser to interact with the above three-dimensional model. Click the eyeball ‘viewer mode’ button and select ‘first person’ to experience flying through the Dandora dumpsite like a bird or the African SkyCAM DJI Phantom 2. Use the arrow keys to move and steer by clicking and dragging with your mouse. Click the right and left arrows at the bottom of the model for a brief annotated guided tour of the dumpsite.
Working as the lead adviser for African SkyCAM I demonstrate how drones provide new, experiential perspectives and add unique context to stories. This includes exploring the different ways a drone can tell a story beyond simply capturing aerial images and video. The above three-dimensional model demonstrates one such storytelling application of a drone.
In October 2014 I collaborated with Matt Rhodes, an American journalist, to do a story about Nairobi’s controversial Dandora dumpsite and the people who earn money by collecting and selling materials thrown away as trash. Rhodes approached African SkyCAM seeking aerial video and images of the landfill to complement his footage shot on the ground.
In addition to capturing aerial video and images for story, I also produced the three-dimensional model, seen at the top of the page, to show how drones can help create virtual environments for media consumers to explore as part of the storytelling process. Such digital visualizations add an experiential element to stories not possible before the emergence of drone technology.
The Dandora three-dimensional model is a synthesis of 574 still photographs captured by a Canon SX260 HS camera mounted underneath a DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter. I programmed the Phantom to systematically fly back and forth across the landfill while the camera, always pointing straight towards the ground, automatically took a photograph every two seconds. Below are three images that became part of the three-dimensional model.
After capturing aerial images the photographs were processed in Agisoft PhotoScan, a program that processes image batches and creates three-dimensional models. During the process of creating a model, PhotoScan can also produce two-dimensional image mosaics, like the one seen below, featuring all 574 images stitched together into a single photograph.