Efficiently scan complex structures with 3D Capture. Skydio assesses the scan volume and generates autonomous and adaptive flight patterns to ensure every angle of the structure is captured. Capture data can be used for inspection or to generate high-fidelity 3D models. 3D Capture is best for scanning structures such as bridges, transmission towers, architecture, machinery, telecommunications towers, and vehicles. 

Quick Steps

Before starting a scan, you will need to change the operating mode from Skills to 3D Scan. The operating mode will persist through power cycles.

To change operating modes: 

Step 1

Navigate to Device Settings icons8-settings-24.png > Drone > Vehicle Mode

Step 2 - Select 3D Scan CS_3DS_X2_UI_reboot3.jpg

Step 3 - Confirm Reboot 

Skydio will automatically reconnect to your controller and mobile device after rebooting

    • Skydio will automatically reconnect to your controller and mobile device
    • Ensure your Logs Card has been formatted before starting a scan
Step 4 - Select Start Scan and Agree to the disclaimer, acknowledging that you will comply with all relevant laws and FAA regulations. 


Before you fly:

  • GPS will be required for scans higher than 65 ft (20 m). Read our article on acquiring GPS Lock: How does Skydio 2/2+ use GPS?
  • You may redo any steps in the workflow. Doing so will reset the steps you have already completed and discard any media that has been captured. You will not be charged for discarded media.

[info] If you wish to capture the same structure with different GSD across various sections, or if you have a very large structure to scan, try breaking your scan into multiple smaller scans. For best results, launch as close as possible to the section of the structure you are scanning. [/info]

To use 3D Capture:

Move through the scan workflow using the Skydio 2 Controller or Skydio Enterprise Controller. The workflow pane will collapse when you are prompted to manually fly and the app will display available Controller shortcuts.


Step 1Select Scan Mode

  • Select 3D Capture
  • Use the right shoulder button to select Begin

Step 2 - Name Scan Site (optional)

The default scan name is composed of the scan mode you select followed by a UTC timestamp. Renaming the scan will replace the scan mode. 

  • Ex: 3D_Capture__2021-05-20T19-50-55.135854+00-00

[info] Scan names must use American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) characters. Unicode characters such as à, é, â, ü, ö, ä and the following symbols will be converted to underscores (_) in the scan directory name: < > : ; , \\ | ? * & $ { } ` “ [/info]

Step 3 - Launch

Select and hold the LAUNCH button to begin your flight. The drone will automatically climb to 16 ft (5 m) and hover.


Step 4 - Set Rally Point

Once the scan completes, you will have the option to return to the Rally Point. Skydio will also return to the Rally Point when the Battery level is low or the drone loses connection.

Use Launch Point - the drone will return to the launch location instead of a manually set Rally Point.

Set Manually - allows you to manually pilot the drone to a new location.


Tips for setting a Rally Point:

  • The Rally Point should be in your line of sight with a clear path to the Launch Point. 
  • Set your Rally Point close to the scan region so that the drone can safely and easily return to that point autonomously. Even if you change position during the scan, the drone will always have a point to return to safely without obstruction.
  • Choose a location that is safe for landing

Step 5 - Set Scan Floor

The Floor defines the bottom of the 3D volume you wish to scan. It will also define the bottom of your scan in the Visual Geofence and the Edge Model Viewer


There are two ways to begin setting the Floor:

Use Launch Height starts the Floor at 6.5 ft (2 m) below the launch height. If taking off from the ground, this ensures the ground is included in your scan.

Set Manually starts the floor at the current height of the drone.

Once selected, adjust the Floor as desired:

  • Pilot the drone and the Floor will automatically move with the drone as you fly
  • Drag the orange Floor AR to the desired height 



The Launch Height is represented by a light gray AR plane.

Done – sets the Floor in your desired location and proceeds to the next step

Center Floor – moves the location of the Floor to the current altitude of the drone

Level Gimbal– moves the camera Gimbal pitch to 0°

Step 6 - Set Scan Ceiling 

The Ceiling defines the top of the 3D volume you wish to scan. It will also define the top of your scan in the Visual Geofence and the Edge Model Viewer.

Press R to begin. The workflow pane will collapse to show a full-screen view of the green Ceiling AR. The Ceiling needs to be set above both the Floor and the structure you are scanning. 

Adjust the Ceiling as desired:

  • Pilot the drone and the Ceiling will automatically move with the drone as you fly
  • Drag the green Ceiling AR to the desired height


Use the Controller shortcuts to navigate the setup process: 

Done – proceeds to the next step

Center Ceiling – moves the location of the Ceiling to the current altitude of the drone

Level Gimbal – adjusts the camera Gimbal pitch to 0°


Step 7 - Set Boundaries

Set AR pillars to encompass the structure to be scanned. These pillars define the lateral bounds for the Visual Geofence and the lateral area of your model in the Edge Model Viewer. 


A minimum of three pillars must be set to create a 3D volume. 


There are two options when setting pillars: 

Fly to the desired location and use the right shoulder button to select Set Pillar. Continue placing pillars to encompass the entire structure. By default, pillars are attached to the drone. The edges of the polygon defined by the pillars must not cross each other.


Set Pillar – Adds a new bounding pillar
Remove –
Removes the previous bounding pillar
Done –
Completes this step and finalizes pillar placement


Fly to place pillars 

[tip] Try adjusting the angle of the Gimbal for a better view of where you are placing pillars. [/tip]

Drag Pillars by holding the base of the yellow AR Pillar on-screen. This selects the active pillar and enables dragging. You may continue to set pillars by dragging or reconnecting the pillar to the drone by selecting “Attach.”

Set Pillar – Adds a new bounding pillar
Done – Completes this step and finalizes pillar placement
Attach – Reconnects the pillar to the drone
Remove – Deletes the previous bounding pillar


Drag to place pillars

[info] Only the current active pillar may be dragged. [/info]

Step 8 - Set Visual Geofence

Enables a strict geofence around the scan volume. The Visual Geofence uses the drone’s visual navigation system to always enter and exit the 3D volume from the same location. Skydio will honor the Visual Geofence during the Explore phase and the scanning process, as well as when transitioning between the two.


To set the Visual Geofence, independently toggle strict or default geofence settings: Ceiling, Floor, and Lateral. By default, Skydio will remain within the scan distance of the boundaries. Enabling a strict geofence means each geofence blocks flight outside of the scan volume along that bound. The drone will continue to enter and exit the geofence through the same location.


[note] Skydio will skip image capture locations that are located outside any of the toggled geofence boundaries. This may result in gaps in coverage. [/note]

Step 9 - Set AR Observer

The AR Observer allows you to set the point of view from which you can observe an augmented-reality view of the scan progress. When you set your AR Observer point, the drone will take a static image from that position. The AR drone will follow the white lines, which denote the planned flight path and image capture locations. The purple AR lines show the Lateral Pillar Bounds.

There are two ways to set the AR Observer perspective:

Review Suggestion (recommended) - Skydio will fly to the ceiling of the pillar closest to the takeoff position. The drone will then face the structure (the centroid of the AR polygon-prism).

Set Manually - allows you to manually pilot the drone to your preferred vantage point, using the Skydio Controller. If you choose to manually set the location of the AR Observer, ensure you are choosing a spot that provides you with the best situational awareness for monitoring the scan’s progress. 


    • For best performance fly no more than 10m from the scan volume, tightly frame the structure and keep the Gimbal pitch level or looking down toward the structure. Fill the frame vertically or horizontally.
    • The AR Observer point is used to reorient the drone after completing a Battery swap and resuming the scan. Ensure the drone has a clear path between the Launch Point, Rally Point (if set manually), and AR Observer point.  
    • If you experience relocalization failures after Battery swaps, try using the suggested AR Observer position rather than setting it manually.

Toggle this icon to switch between the static AR Observer image and the drone’s camera feed at any time during the scan.


Step 10 - Explore

The drone will briskly and autonomously fly around the scan volume to build an internal model of the structure being scanned.

Select Edit Settings to adjust the speed at which your drone completes the Explore Phase. The minimum speed is 1.1 mph (1.8 km/h) and the maximum speed is 5.6 mph (9 km/h).




[tip] Tap Status_Off.png in the top right corner to toggle the AR Coverage Mesh. [/tip]

Step 11 - Review or Edit Settings

View a summary of your scan settings:

    • Scan time estimate
    • Number of batteries required
    • Total number of photos

Review your current settings and select Edit Settings to make any adjustments before the scan begins. You must have at least five photos to begin a scan. 


Editing scan settings will impact the total flight time, number of photos and the required number of batteries.


[tip] Use the Maximum Speed slider to set the maximum speed at which Skydio will travel while exploring, scanning and when returning to the Launch Point or Rally Point. Set the speed between 1.1 mph (0.5 m/s) - 11 mph (5 m/s) [/tip]

[note] Editing scan settings will impact the total flight time, number of photos and the required number of batteries. [/note]

Scan settings persist across scans of the same scan mode. Select the Reset button in the top right corner to restore default settings. 


Step 12 - Select Begin Scan and Skydio will begin autonomously scanning the structure. 

Your scan may require using several batteries to complete. For more information, read How to scan using multiple batteries. 

You may pause at any point during your scan:

  • Use the left shoulder button or tap pause.png in the workflow pane to pause scanning
  • Your drone will display how many photos have been captured
  • Manually capture photos while paused by using the right shoulder button or on-screen capture button
  • Use the left shoulder button or tap play.png to resume scanning

Optionally toggle on the AR Coverage Mesh Status_Off.pngduring your scan to monitor the photo coverage progress.

Obstacle Avoidance is set to Standard—and cannot be changed—when Skydio flies autonomously. If you are manually piloting the drone, you have the option to adjust your obstacle avoidance setting within the Device Settings menu.

[caution] Skydio obstacle avoidance does not detect moving objects and is disabled during landing. Review the Skydio Safety and Operating Guide for more information. [/caution]

Step 13 - Manually Capture Photos (Optional)

Once your scan completes, you will be given the option to manually capture more photos of the scene or details of specific areas of interest.

The purple AR outline on-screen shows the Lateral Pillar Bounds. Use the right shoulder button to take a photo. Manual photos will show up in the scan folder and in the Edge Model Viewer alongside the autonomously captured photos.


[note] You may also optionally enable interval mode to have the drone take photos at different time intervals (ex: capture a photo every 5 seconds). Manual photos may be captured at any time by pressing pause. [/note]

Step 14 - Scan Complete

Once the scan completes, you will have the option to either:

  • Start a new scan - this will prompt you with an option to save or discard the scan you just completed
  • Return to Launch
  • Return to Rally (if a manually set) 

Select Save to ensure that the media is grouped by scan and is available in the Skydio Edge Model Viewer.

Wait for your drone to complete all post-flight tasks.


[caution] Do not remove the Battery or power off during any post-flight tasks. Doing so will result in loss of data. Do not power off or disconnect from the drone until you return to the Begin Flight screen. [/caution]


Explore More

Explore related articles for additional information

How to scan using multiple batteries

3D Scan Settings Overview

Visual Geofencing in 3D Scan

How to use the AR Coverage Mesh for 3D Captures

How to set the AR Observer in 3D Scan

Accessing 3D Scan Data


If you have questions or need additional support—feel free to reach out! Skydio Support


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