Regular inspection of transmission lines is an essential work, which has been implemented by either labor intensive or very expensive approaches. 3D reconstruction could be an alternative solution to satisfy the need for accurate and low cost inspection. This paper exploits the use of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for outdoor data acquisition and conducts accuracy assessment tests to explore potential usage for offsite inspection of transmission lines. Firstly, an oblique photogrammetric system, integrating with a cheap double-camera imaging system, an onboard dual-frequency GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) receiver and a ground master GNSS station in fixed position, is designed to acquire images with ground resolutions better than 3 cm. Secondly, an image orientation method, considering oblique imaging geometry of the dual-camera system, is applied to detect enough tie-points to construct stable image connection in both along-track and across-track directions. To achieve the best geo-referencing accuracy and evaluate model measurement precision, signalized ground control points (GCPs) and model key points have been surveyed. Finally, accuracy assessment tests, including absolute orientation precision and relative model precision, have been conducted with different GCP configurations. Experiments show that images captured by the designed photogrammetric system contain enough information of power pylons from different viewpoints. Quantitative assessment demonstrates that, with fewer GCPs for image orientation, the absolute and relative accuracies of image orientation and model measurement are better than 0.3 and 0.2 m, respectively. For regular inspection of transmission lines, the proposed solution can to some extent be an alternative method with competitive accuracy, lower operational complexity and considerable gains in economic cost.
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