Since exploding onto the scene, drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are transforming the construction world. Indeed, construction is anticipated to be the largest commercial use case for drone technology.
From civil infrastructure projects to buildings and facilities, drones drive efficiencies in key areas on the construction site: time, cost, and quality.
It makes sense that drones save time. They can fly above a construction site unimpeded, collecting data and imagery for construction-site use. Web-based apps or drone platforms can set pre-determined routes and the drones scan the flight path automatically. They then send scanned data back to a cloud-based photogrammetry engine that processes the raw 2D imagery (point clouds, photography formats, 3D mesh files, etc.) into 3D model or 2D drawing for further design in BIM or CAD tools like Revit, InfraWorks, and Civil 3D.
The result is a highly accurate, high-fidelity, near real-time capture of the construction site. Project teams realize immediate advantages and ROI, reducing surveying time from days to minutes.
Massive Time Savings, More Data Points, and Greater Detail
For example, global engineering consultancy, Arcadis, is helping the country of Qatar achieve its ambitious construction goals in readiness for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Arcadis sought to use drones on a massive highway project in the city of Doha – a 14 lane road with five vehicle lanes and two dedicated truck lanes – the Orbital Highway.
Given the size of the site and the goals of the project, Arcadis saw a great fit for drone surveying. But, to win the bid, they had to prove that drones could do the job accurately, compared to traditional methods.
To build their business case, Arcadis chose a representative site of three acres and ran a test survey using both methods.
The first big difference between the two surveying methods was time. The traditional survey took three hours, while the drone survey only 20 minutes. The drone also captured more data points, 1,539,963 compared to the traditional method’s 197 points – creating a significant difference in the level of detail. This volume of data points also helped deliver more accurate earthwork volume quantities.
Drones can collect a site’s progress with a degree of accuracy previously unseen in the industry and reduce the amount of building site materials that end up in landfills. Furthermore, that sensor data can be turned into 3D models, maps, and volumetric measurements (which can help monitor and track costly gravel and sand inventory).
This test resulted in Arcadis getting the green light to go ahead with the Orbital Highway site capture. 34 drone maps (aka orthomosaics) were created. To produce volumetric calculations they were exported into LAS and TIFF files they were then used to generate raster data and surfaces in Civil 3D.
The project proved that drone surveys can be done 10x faster than traditional topographic surveys.
Learn more about processing imagery collected with a UAV, including best practice workflows, from processing the drone data once captured, taking those results into InfraWorks for use and further processing, then moving them into Civil 3D.