Human eyes require a simplification of the real world to comprehend and navigate it: Think about your favorite app for driving directions or the simple, clean lines on a subway system map. But we are transitioning to a world in which computers use digital maps as a lifelike representation of the physical world. This forms the foundation for simulations and virtual reality environments meant to fool the human mind into believing it is physically located somewhere it is not. These digital maps strive to depict those worlds as close as possible to the real physical world—thus the term “digital twin” has become the latest buzzword in the geospatial industry. As both industry and society adopt a world of digital twins, precision is quickly becoming a key component of digital maps.

The digital reality allowed by complex, true-to-life 3D mapping techniques has enabled use cases that five years ago would have seemed like deleted scenes from a “Blade Runner” film. Autonomous vehicles are the obvious early adopters of this brave new world—we have all seen Teslas driving themselves—but have you seen an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), also called a drone, deliver a donated organ to a hospital across town? Or a swarm of drones loaded with individual packages released from the back of a truck, set to navigate to each shipping address and gently deliver the packages? Or drones deployed around the globe to deliver critical food, medical supplies and military equipment in the wake of a natural disaster or geopolitical conflict?

Maxar’s patented 3D technology, formerly known as Vricon, has been rebranded as Precision3D. This new name boldly makes claim to Maxar’s recognition of emerging technologies’ reliance on lifelike digital representations that precisely replicate the real world. Precison3D offers the world’s most accurate and consistent 3D Surface Model, with 50 cm resolution and sub-3 m positional accuracy in all three dimensions. Not only do the Precision3D datasets model the world as a digital twin, but the complete and consistently accurate 3D mesh enables global geopositioning to a standardized 50 cm 3D reference grid for all optical, video and 3D remote sensing data, including Maxar’s own 125+ petabyte image library—assuring alignment of multiple data layers, all tied to the Maxar Precision3D family of products.

Use case example No. 1: fighter jets leveraging Maxar 3D data in real time

In 2021, Maxar demonstrated its 3D reference mapping capability on the vision-based navigation system used aboard Saab’s Gripen fighter jet. In the case of GPS being blocked or jammed, the demonstration proved that Saab’s Gripen jet can use Maxar P3DR software to triangulate their positions by comparing the real-time sensing of the features around them with the onboard 3D digital twins.

Keep an eye on the buildings along the left-center of the slider to see how closely P3DR aligns the camera’s livestream to the Precision3D 3D Surface Model.

Soon, we will see a similar capability being enabled for UAVs.

Use case example No. 2: drones leveraging 3D and artificial intelligence (AI) for safer navigation

To enable these feats of AI, UAVs need more than just real-time sensors to know where they are, where they are going and, most importantly, what’s in their way: They need precise 3D mapping data. Maxar’s highly precise 3D mapping data enables UAV operators to plan safe routes and use the positions of buildings and trees to predict GPS signal strength for optimized positional awareness in flight.

With Maxar’s Precision3D, new possibilities for planning, calibration and optimization emerge, bringing superior accuracy at a global scale to safe flight paths.

In the future, we will likely have these 3D digital twin datasets embedded in the memories of both manned and unmanned vehicles. With accurate reference mapping, vehicles and aircraft could navigate without GPS signals—a real game-changer for navigation safety and resilient national security operations.

See the world how it really is in fully immersive Precision3D.

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