Project Description

A Herculean Effort for Conventional 3D Modeling,
But Not for Kaarta

The Site

A C-130 Hercules aircraft located at the 911th Airlift Wing, an Air Mobility Command unit of the Air Force Reserve Command at  Pittsburgh Air Reserve Station.

Fig 1. The Kaarta team scanning the hanger and plane.

The Challenge

In service for more than a half a century, the legendary C-130 Hercules lives up to its name —  capable of airdropping 42,000-pound (19,000 kg) loads and transporting oversized cargo ranging from utility helicopters and Humvees to standard palletized cargo. Kaarta was tasked with creating an accurate 3D model of the aircraft’s exterior, which would be used to assess the feasibility of implementing an autonomous de-painting system for routine maintenance. Despite the size and complexity of the surface area, Kaarta sought to produce an accurate and actionable 3D model in a fraction of the time required by traditional terrestrial survey methods using lidar.

Fig 2. Underside view of the C-130 Hercules

Kaarta in Action

The operator began the process by simply walking around the aircraft while holding Kaarta Stencil handheld 3D scanner. Scans were also captured from above the aircraft by using a standard boom-lift. During this virtually effortless 30-minute “tour,” Stencil collected, processed and converted the spatial data into a 3D model in real time. This feat is made possible by Kaarta Engine, the proprietary software intelligence that allows Stencil to identify its location and surroundings. Unlike conventional modeling techniques, it requires no use of prior maps, GPS or other infrastructure.

Fig 3. Overlay of position data from scan shows how closely Kaarta real-time mobile scan matched precise survey data

The Kaarta Difference

Before Kaarta, producing a comparable model using tripod-mounted terrestrial lidar would have required many scans and many hours to capture the full surface of the aircraft. This is because stationary systems would require many views to capture all of the complex geometric surfaces of the aircraft especially near the engines and propellers.  Furthermore, because Kaarta reveals the model on the go, users have real-time assurance that no surface is missed. This dramatically simplifies the process from start to finish, leaving the heavy lifting to Hercules.

Project Details


October, 2016


Pittsburgh, PA, USA






Rapid modeling of large aircraft exterior




Create a 3D model of the massive C-130 Hercules aircraft with all its complex geometric surfaces


Produced an accurate 3D model in 30 minutes




30 minutes