EWN’s view360 Team Travels to the Twelve Apostles

Capturing one of Victoria’s most memorable natural monuments – View360 gets out and about on the Great Ocean Road

Our View360 team recently headed for the deep south of the continent to undertake mapping of one of Victoria’s most dramatic natural tourist attractions – the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road.

Located offshore from the Port Campbell National Park, these limestone formations up to 45 metres high are under stress from the same forces that created them – the eroding power of waves and high winds.

The View360 mapping project carried out by View360 Project Manager Danny Timson and Chief Pilot Mark Phillips enabled EWN’s data team to create volumetric digital modelling of the iconic formations.

The precisely geo-located and highly detailed model will allow the rate of erosion at specific parts of each formation to be monitored to the centimetre, making it an invaluable tool for any management plan created for the tourism drawcard in future.

Surveying a natural wonder

The team spent four days in the area, staying at the peaceful, picturesque village of Port Campbell.

Danny Timson said the trip was “really one huge highlight for both of us.”

“The scenery is breathtaking and immense,” he said.

One of the trip’s most standout moments was the day the two easternmost Apostles were filmed by the EWN drone. To achieve the best results, the team made their way down to the nearby beach and set up to launch the drone at around 6.30am for its mapping flight. The location meant they were very close to the rock formations and the breaking waves.

“We usually began filming by around 6.30 am every morning to avoid the crowds and local aircraft which began operating mid morning. The rest of each day was spent processing and working with the data.”

The quality of the images and video data is crucial to the accuracy and resolution of the 3D modelling.

Naturally, there were a few challenges

Like any View360 mission, there were some challenges the team had to manage.

“Weather is our greatest challenge,” Danny said.

“We’re always looking for low  - or no - winds, good even light and no rain. Other issues are ensuring we only work in unrestricted airspace and maintaining a safe distance from the public and property.

“We were lucky with the weather which was excellent on all 4 days with clear skies and light winds. While we’re never 100 percent at ease when we have a equipment like cameras and UAVs flying over the open ocean, the project went extremely smoothly.

“We have strong faith in our equipment and processes and each project we do like this teaches us to have continued trust in these aspects.”

One of the important considerations with UAVs – otherwise known as drones – is avoiding high winds as much as possible. While the UAVs can operate and maintain accuracy, high winds can create a drain on the batteries as the drones need to draw extra juice to maintain a geolocated position. Salt spray is also best avoided as it can be problematic for both the drones and the cameras they carry.

The view the public rarely glimpses

One of the special things about the footage for anyone who has visited the Apostles is it gives viewers a close look at the face the public can’t see from shore, as the drones circle the formations in slowly descending spirals.

Danny explained that controlling the flight path of the UAV when it is behind the subject is simple.

“Our drone flies a pre-programmed route which is created on our computer. The drone flies through several designated waypoints at a set altitude then upon completing the path automatically returns to its launch site,” Danny said.

“The great thing about having set missions is they can be saved and weeks, months or even years later we can return and fly the exact same mission and compare the data to earlier missions.”

How these projects can benefit future management

What being able to repeat the exact same flight path means for the National Parks Service and Heritage bodies is they can commission a future survey and gain an accurate digital assessment of the rates of erosion compared to the model this project created.

This is of course one of the benefits of View360 for many locations – the ability to precisely geolocate and capture data and images in real-time and generate comparisons. The same threats that are impacting the Apostles in terms of erosion are found around the nation on our riverbanks, on farmland, and on key transport routes. WE think better information, like that provided by View360, can assist with improved monitoring, mitigation and management of these threats.

See them now – they won’t be here forever

Danny said the fact the Apostles have a finite lifespan due to the forces of erosion made him appreciate undertaking the project even more.

“These monuments are definitely a must-see for anyone who hasn’t visited the area yet,” he said.

“The scenery is breathtaking. Not just the Apostles, but the entire area.

“It’s also nice the surrounding areas haven’t been commercialised. It's very quiet and peaceful with mainly farmlands surrounding the site.”

[Video footage coming soon]