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“3D Mapping by Drone” Research and Development

Assistant Professor Taro Suzuki

Technology currently expected for drones

Currently, “drones,” which are unmanned and capable of flying automatically, have become very familiar in our life. In industry fields, in addition to remote sensing, which uses satellites, aircraft, manned helicopters and so forth, to gather ground-based information from the sky, other information gathering techniques using drones are being studied at a variety of universities and research institutions. Among these techniques, there is particular demand for the application of “3D mapping” technology, whereby a precise 3-dimensional map of an environment can be produced simply by flying a drone. The use of 3D mapping is anticipated in a range of areas, from gathering detailed information on disaster effects, such as building collapse and landslides when disasters strike, to building inspections and the measurement of public engineering works after their completion. I am working on the development of a drone which can realize 3D mapping in disaster environments (Figure 1).

Figure 1  3D mapping by drone

3D mapping structure

At present, drones capable of 3D mapping are mounted with six Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) (*Note 1) antenna receivers outside of the drones’ propellers, as shown in Figure 2. New techniques have been developed to estimate the position of a drone in flight to within 1cm, and its attitude to within 0.1º, without having to use measuring devices (gyro sensors, etc.) to detect the angle in inertia, by mounting multirotor drones with low-cost GNSS antenna receivers. This has enabled centimetre-precision measurement of topography, which was previously very difficult. Furthermore, methods have been established, installing laser distance sensors (LiDAR) on drones, for accurate 3-dimensional measurement of the ground. Traditionally, camera-based 3D mapping systems were employed. As a result of the use of LiDAR however, it is no longer necessary to set out markers known as antiaircraft beacons, so that photographs of the ground can be taken by camera, as was required in the past.

(*Note 1) Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) is the general name for satellite-based positioning systems. Examples include GPS in America, GLONASS in Russia and quasi-zenith satellites in Japan.

Figure 2  Drone mounted with 6 GNSS antenna receivers

Exhibits at the Digital Contents EXPO (October 27 – 29, 2017)

The 3D mapping technology using drones, currently being researched and developed was selected, in the form of “GNSS:LiDAR: Drone 3D Mapping,” by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in September 2017 as one of its “Innovative Technologies+ 2017.” This is a program which selects advanced content technologies based on the direction of technological development indicated in the Ministry’s Technology Map 2015, through the contribution of experts in industry and academia. The selected technologies were exhibited at the Digital Contents EXPO held at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (October 27 – 29, 2017) (Figure 3). A great many visitors attended the EXPO, and were extremely interested, amongst other exhibits, in 3D mapping by drone. Numerous questions and were asked in anticipation of its actual utilization, including “when will it be of practical use?” and “what kinds of places can it gather data?” while opinions such as “I’d like to see it used for measurement of forests and construction sites” were also given. This research was selected for the Cabinet Office’s Innovative Visualization Technology to Lead to Creation of a New Growth Industry (ImPACT) program, and is now being actively pursued. The research term of ImPACT will continue for another year, but I would like to accelerate this area of study in its final year, toward actual applications.

Figure 3  GNSS-LiDAR drone exhibit at the Digital Contents EXPO


Waseda-Keio Co-hosted Workshop “Logic and Philosophy of Mathematics” (July 14 and 15, 2017)

Associate Professor Ryota Akiyoshi

On Friday, July 14 and Saturday, July 15, the workshop called “Logic and Philosophy of Mathematics” co-hosted by Waseda Institute for Advanced Study (WIAS) of Waseda University and the Global Centre for Advanced Research on Logic and Sensibility of Keio University was held at the Mita Campus of Keio University (July 14) and at the Waseda Campus of Waseda University (July 15).

The theme for the first day of the program was the philosophy of logic and mathematics, with a focus on the modern take on and reconsideration of the debate on the foundations of mathematics (*1) concerning infinity that occurred at the beginning of the 20th century. The foundation of mathematics spurred on the development of mathematics following Gödel’s incompleteness theorems (1931). Since the 1970s, there have been stronger connections with computer science and it is often thought that the foundation of mathematics has departed from the philosophical discussions about infinity, but in actuality, reconsidering these developments from a fundamental philosophical point of view represents a challenging and especially meaningful research theme. Assistant Professor Makoto Fujiwara and I from WIAS gave lectures on Brouwer’s bar induction from both a philosophical and mathematical point of view (Figure 1). These were followed by a presentation on the proof concept of arithmetic from Andrew Arana, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Université Paris, an expert in the philosophy of mathematics and the foundation of mathematics (Figure 2). Additionally, Kengo Okamoto, Professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University, known for not only for his research on the philosophy of logic but also on German philosophers Hegel and Leibniz, gave a lecture about aspect concepts such as “possibility” and “necessity.” On the second day, presentations were made on advanced research in the fields of computer science of logic and the foundation of mathematics.

*1 The debate on the foundation of mathematics included such prominent figures as Frege, Brouwer, and Hilbert.

Figure 1  Assistant Professor Makoto Fujiwara’s lecture

My research presentation on discussions related to Brouwer’s bar induction included the following. Brouwer established his own school of thought on mathematics based on the philosophy of infinity which was very close to Aristotle’s one, but the discussions to justify his bar induction were not considered properly proven. These discussions rely on a type of philosophical assumption concerning the format of proof, and various interpretations have been proposed concerning this assumption, but none followed mathematical rigorousness. I used methods of the Hilbert school (proof theory) believed to fundamentally oppose Brouwer to rigorously formalize these discussions mathematically, and proposed a theory for naturally interpreting these resulting assumptions considered problematic. This presentation received feedback from researchers in the fields of philosophy, mathematics, and computer science, which helped to further advance this research.

On the first day, researchers from WAIS gave lectures at the Mita Campus and on the second day researchers from Keio University visited the campus of Waseda University as audience members. Both days featured the participation of researchers representing various fields, making this co-hosted workshop a great success.

Figure 2  Associate Professor Andrew Arana’s lecture

Figure 3 Associate Professor Ryota Akiyoshi

This workshop included Assistant Professor Makoto Fujiwara and I from Waseda University and Professor Mitsuhiro Okada (Director of the Global Centre for Advanced Research on Logic and Sensibility) from Keio University as main speakers. While I currently work for Waseda University, I have spent close to two decades as a student at Keio University schools, and so this workshop meant something special to me (Figure 3). Waseda University and Keio University are often considered as rivals, but the success of this workshop co-hosted by both institutions has proven to be a step forward for WIAS in its mission to cultivate interdisciplinary fields beyond various boundaries.

Tour of Special Exhibition “The Oldest Stone Tools and Handaxes – the Dawn of Design” (October 20, 2017)

Associate Professor Katsuhiro Sano

The WIAS lunchtime seminar was held on October 20, 2017, featuring a tour of the Special Exhibition “The Oldest Stone Tools and Handaxes – the Dawn of Design” (Figure 1) being held at The University Museum of The University of Tokyo. This special exhibition showcases the joint research results of Japanese and Ethiopian researchers since the 1980s. I have been involved in this joint international research since 2012 and now I serve as a member of the executive committee for this special exhibition. As a result, on this occasion, I decided to introduce efforts to make public and spread the results of world-class advanced research by providing a tour on the opening day of this special exhibition.

Figure 1  Entrance to the Special Exhibition “The Oldest Stone Tools and Handaxes – the Dawn of Design”

This special exhibition displays the earliest stone tools, the earliest “designed” stone tools, and stone tools from the ancestors of Homo sapiens who left Africa. Each of these pieces represents world-class specimens being displayed in Japan for the very first time, and many have never left Ethiopia until now. Also, fossilized skull replicas representing each stage of human evolution are displayed according to the presumed height of these people. This makes it possible for audiences to visually understand the development of stone tool technologies and process of human evolution (Figure 2). Additionally, a form of aerial imaging has been set up at the venue where video of how these stone tools were made is shown by touching the displays suspended in midair. This provides commentary on stone tool technologies of ancient hominins with the latest cutting-edge technology.

Figure 2  Fossilized skulls hanging based on their presumed height and stone tools inside the display case. This shows that hominins gradually increased its brain capacity as stone tools were developed into refined designs.

Stone tools were the very first tools to be created by humankind. They represent the first artifacts to be created based on a clear image of design from the brain (Figure 3). From the Konso sites, which are the highlight of this special exhibition, the world’s oldest handaxes from 1.75 million years ago (stone tool designed with an almond shape) were excavated. This particular stone tool type was carefully manufactured together with the passing of time, resulting in its gradual transformation into a well balanced shape. Some 900 to 800 thousand years ago, left-right symmetry in one plane along with symmetry on its profile and cross-section were incorporated, giving rise to the three dimensional symmetry of this tool (Beyene et al., 2013. PNAS 110, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1221285110). Making such objects with this three dimensional symmetry requires cognitive skills to visualize in three dimensions and techniques to fabricate sculptures as mentally imagined. In addition, the technology to prepare a core by flaking it emerged between 1.4 and 1.25 million years ago. This prepared core technology allows to remove large standardized flakes from the core and the flakes were then used as blanks for stone stools (Beyene et al., 2015. The University Museum, The University of Tokyo Bulletin 48, http://umdb.um.u-tokyo.ac.jp/DKankoub/Bulletin/no48/index.html). This is proof that early hominins had to some extent the ability to plan for the future. As such, the development of stone tool technology provides us with important clues elucidating the process of human evolution.

Figure 3  Providing commentary in front of the oldest designed stone tools (author pictured at right)

A slightly modified version of this special exhibition will be held at Waseda University in May 2018. Experiencing these world-class specimens presents a unique opportunity to see firsthand cutting edge research on human evolution. It is my sincere hope that many Waseda University students and faculty as well as the general public will be able to visit this special exhibition.


WIAS invites distinguished, internationally active researchers from overseas. Through scholarly exchanges, seminars, and other activities jointly undertaken with Waseda researchers, WIAS contributes to the invigoration of the university’s research activities.more information

Visiting Fellows

  • November 6, 2017 – December 6, 2017 PERREAULT, Jacques; Professor, University of Montreal, Department of History(Canada)
  • March 9, 2018 – April 8, 2018 DE GROOT, Jerome; Senior Lecturer, University of Manchester,  School of Arts, Histories and Cultures(United Kingdom)

Visiting Scholars

  • October 1, 2017 – November 1, 2017 NEOH, Joshua; Senior Lecturer, The Australian National University, Law School(Australia)
  • October 30, 2017 – November 30, 2017 DUANGKRAYOM, Jaroon; Lecturer, Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University, Geoinformatic Program(Thailand)
  • March 24, 2018 – April 22, 2018 SAKO, Mari; Professor, University of Oxford, Said Business School(United Kingdom)

Please feel free to contact us.

Waseda Institute for Advanced Study (WIAS)

1-6-1 Nishi Waseda, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 169-8050, JAPAN


Newsletter Vol.14 (2017)


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