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With the advent of advanced technology, the construction and inspection industry is undergoing a significant transformation. Digital Twins, created using data captured through photogrammetry or LiDAR technology, play a pivotal role in this transformation. This digital replica of physical assets, scenes, or buildings allows for real-time monitoring, analysis, and control, enabling inspectors and quality control personnel to assess and manage assets more efficiently. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of Digital Twins, the technology involved in its creation, and its numerous benefits.

What are Digital Twins?

A Digital Twin is a digital replica of a physical asset, scene, or building. It is a dynamic 3D model that reflects a physical object’s real-time status and conditions. Digital Twins serve multiple purposes, including real-time monitoring, analysis, simulation, control, and documentation. They enable inspectors to conduct thorough analyses, identify potential issues, plan maintenance activities more effectively, and keep a digital record of the asset’s condition at a specific time.

The History & Evolution of Digital Twins

While the foundational ideas for Digital Twins have existed for decades, particularly during the Apollo space missions in the 1960s and 1970s, the convergence of technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data analytics, and cloud computing in the 21st century propelled the concept into a more sophisticated and broadly applicable solution. It wasn’t until the 2010s, with the rise of these technologies, that Digital Twins gained significant traction and began to be applied across diverse industries on a larger scale. The term “Digital Twin” itself was introduced around 2002 by Michael Grieves at the University of Michigan, but the foundational ideas predate this formal naming.


Historic Use Cases:


  • Space Exploration: One of the earliest and most cited uses of a digital twin concept was during the Apollo missions. NASA utilized what can be thought of as Proto-Digital Twins for its space missions, especially when troubleshooting space problems. They maintained ground-based mockups of spacecrafts to mirror and diagnose issues faced in space. This early form of mirroring the physical asset with a digital (or, in this case, ground-based) counterpart can be seen as a precursor to today’s Digital Twins.
  • Manufacturing and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM): Before the term “Digital Twin” was widely recognized, many manufacturing companies used CAD (Computer-Aided Design) tools to create digital representations of their products. These representations would optimize design, simulate performance, and predict wear and tear.
  • Aircraft Engines: Companies like GE were among the pioneers in using Digital Twins for industrial applications. GE utilized digital representations of airplane engines to collect and analyze data, predict performance, and optimize maintenance schedules.

Expanding Accuracy in Inspection Reporting

In the past and today, inspectors often relied on methods like hand-drawn sketches or physical markers on assets to denote defects. For instance, they might use chalk or paint markers on a large industrial pipe to circle or point out areas of concern. This could be problematic as the marks might fade, get washed away, or be misinterpreted by another person reviewing the asset. Such methods, especially for large assets or comprehensive job sites, lead to the challenging task of manually pinpointing and referencing defects. This process takes up a lot of time and might not always be accurate, leading to challenges for both inspectors and maintenance teams. However, with the introduction of Digital Twins, which are exact virtual copies of physical assets, the landscape of inspection has transformed. These digital replicas, with real-time data visualization and precise defect mapping, significantly reduce the time spent on location referencing. They also offer a clear and easy-to-understand platform for post-inspection evaluations, ensuring that defects are both accurately identified and effectively communicated to maintenance teams.

Data Capture using Photogrammetry and LiDAR

Digital Twins and 3D models are created using data captured through photogrammetry or LiDAR technology.

DroneDeploy Data Analysis


Photogrammetry involves capturing high-resolution images from different angles and using platforms like DroneDeploy to create detailed 3D models. Specialized software processes these images to extract geometric information and generate accurate and detailed 3D models of the scene or object.


LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), with systems like the Hovermap ST-X, uses laser pulses to measure distances to the Earth’s surface. A LiDAR sensor sends out laser beams and measures the time it takes for the beams to return after hitting the surface. This data is then used to generate accurate 3D models of the scene or object.

Photogrammetry: Constructing Digital Twins with Mapping Software

Photogrammetry and digital twins go hand in hand in today’s technology landscape. By leveraging overlapping photographs taken from varied angles, photogrammetry transforms these two-dimensional snapshots into three-dimensional models. When integrated into mapping software, this process creates comprehensive and detailed virtual replicas of real-world environments, giving birth to a digital twin. Many professionals now employ techniques such as Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) positioning to enhance the accuracy of these photogrammetrally derived maps. RTK, with its refined GPS capabilities, ensures that photographs are georeferenced with pinpoint precision, dramatically improving the spatial accuracy and reliability of the resulting digital twin. in a world rapidly shifting towards digital replication and simulation, Utilizing photogrammetry in tandem with advanced mapping software is essential to craft highly precise virtual landscapes that closely mirror their real-world counterparts.

Role of Drones and Robots

Drones and robots equipped with cameras or LiDAR sensors play a crucial role in capturing the data required to create Digital Twins and 3D models of buildings.

MFE Skydio X2E Color


Drones can access hard-to-reach areas, cover large distances quickly, and capture high-quality images or LiDAR data. They can navigate through confined spaces, uneven terrains, and hazardous environments, reducing risks for inspectors and making the data collection process quicker, safer, and more cost-effective.


Robots, equipped with cameras or LiDAR sensors, can navigate through confined spaces, uneven terrains, and hazardous environments, reducing risks for inspectors. They can capture high-quality images or LiDAR data, making the process of creating Virtual Twins and 3D models of buildings quicker, safer, and more cost-effective.

LiDAR Digital Twins for GPS-Denied Environments

Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) combined with Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology is at the forefront of modern navigation, especially in environments where GPS proves unreliable. SLAM-based LiDAR systems capture detailed spatial data and interpret and adapt to these environments in real-time. This symbiotic relationship between localization and mapping ensures a comprehensive, continuously updated digital model, creating an unparalleled navigation aid for GPS-denied scenarios. Building on this foundation, the Elios 3 Indoor Inspection Drone emerges as a testament to the prowess of SLAM-based LiDAR Integration. This drone, specifically designed for challenging indoor environments, leverages the strength of a SLAM-based LiDAR system to navigate with unmatched precision and agility. In spaces where traditional GPS systems fall short, Elios 3 thrives, creating real-time maps and swiftly adapting to unexpected obstacles or changes. Its robustness shines when faced with intricate pathways and environments filled with obstructions. With Elios 3, industries have a reliable tool that promises efficiency, safety, and reduced margin for error, making a significant advancement in indoor inspections.

Benefits of Digital Twins

Having a Digital Twin of an asset or an entire scene provides numerous benefits in terms of quality control and inspection:

  • Time-Saving: Creating a Virtual Twin using drones and robots significantly reduces the time required for data collection and analysis. Inspectors can assess and monitor assets in real-time, without the need to be physically present on-site.
  • Cost-Effective: Using drones and robots for data collection reduces the need for manual labor, expensive equipment, and site visits, resulting in significant cost savings.
  • Risk Reduction: Drones and robots can access hazardous and hard-to-reach areas, reducing the risks associated with manual inspections.
  • Detailed Analysis: Virtual Twins provide a detailed and accurate 3D model of an asset, enabling inspectors to conduct a thorough analysis, identify potential issues, and plan maintenance activities more effectively.
  • Documentation: Virtual Twins serve as a digital record of the asset’s condition at a specific point in time, which can be used for future reference, analysis, and planning.

Experience the Future with MFE Inspection Solution

The paradigm shift in asset management and maintenance powered by Digital Twins, drones, and robots underscores the immense potential of modern inspection methodologies. These tools exemplify the pinnacle of quality control, safety, and efficiency, paving the way for future advancements. As we’ve highlighted the significance of Virtual Twins in providing precise 3D models and the role of drones and robots in streamlined data collection, it becomes evident that the right tools are paramount. This is where MFE Inspection Solution shines. By harnessing the power of cutting-edge technology, MFE Inspection Solution ensures your inspections are not just contemporary but future-ready. As we enter this digital transformation era, aligning with MFE Inspection Solution can be your key to unlocking unparalleled inspection proficiency. Dive into the future with MFE Inspection Solution today.