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Building Uber’s New HQ With Drones

Uber HQ, your drone is arriving now.

And it’s being flown by Truebeck Construction, an innovative, fast-growing general contractor based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Founded in 2007, the company quickly made its mark on high profile projects across Silicon Valley, including the Steve Jobs Theatre at Apple Park. Now, with over 400 employees and a spot in the ENR 200, Truebeck is building Uber’s new headquarters in the Mission Bay neighborhood of San Francisco.

Their expanding in-house drone program is run by their virtual construction team, led by Justin Porter, Senior VDC Manager. Justin and his team perform a wide range of increasingly vital services across Truebeck’s projects—including Uber—such as laser scanning, drone mapping and drone inspections, alternate delivery methods, 4D scheduling, and driving safety initiatives.

The project: Uber’s new HQ

The 450,000 square foot headquarters, scheduled to open in 2020, consists of two buildings—one 12 stories and the other seven stories—and sits right beside the new Golden State Warriors stadium. Designed by SHoP Architects, it’s being built using cast-in-place concrete and will have two glass and steel pedestrian bridges crossing between the buildings.

The need: aerial imagery for as-built models and progress reporting

Justin and Alex from Truebeck planning flights with the 3DR customer success team

The Truebeck VDC team is increasingly looking to use drone data on a number of active projects across the Bay Area. “95% of how we use drone data is for site planning, logistics planning, and as-built surveying,” Justin said. “We have a new logistics plan almost every day, and we want to be able to overlay these plans onto high-res, up-to-date drone maps.”

"We have a new logistics plan almost every day, and we want to be able to overlay these plans onto high-res, up-to-date drone maps."

Justin PorterSenior VDC Manager, Truebeck Construction

They also make use of new tools to improve progress reporting and communication with their clients. This doesn’t just include drones—they have a virtual reality trailer on-site that the Uber team regularly visits to get an immersive experience of the new office:

On this project, Truebeck wanted to use drones in two main ways:

1. Perform progress scans of the exterior skin to track against the schedule and perform quality assurance

2. Enhance progress reporting with a variety of aerial images

The solution: 3DR Site Scan

The virtual construction team is actively building their own in-house drone program, so they were looking for a drone solution with a complete, end-to-end workflow. They found it in Site Scan, and now are actively flying on a number of projects.

On the Uber project, Justin and his colleague Alex Snyder, Senior VDC Engineer, use the Site Scan iOS app to fly their drones safely despite being in a busy urban area. They take high-resolution photos of the west façade of the structure in a short flight, and then upload the photos to Site Scan where they’re processed into a detailed point cloud. They then can not only view and analyze the photos themselves, but they can use the point cloud as well, make measurements, and QA/QC performed work.

Creating detailed point clouds to track progress

Their main focus is on capturing and inspecting the exterior skin of the building, including the glass panels that are being installed:

Point cloud in Site Scan for an as-built survey of the Uber HQ

Using Site Scan’s photo inspection tool, they can also click on any pixel in the point cloud and view every photo that includes that point. This helps them quickly go back and forth between a rich point cloud and a single high-resolution photo, enabling more granular inspections of the exterior skin for quality control and progress monitoring.

They also flew manually to capture inspection photos of specific, harder-to-reach areas of interest, such as the pedestrian bridges that connect the two buildings:

Getting a 360° view

To capture additional parts of the site and get a complete perspective of the latest progress, they also flew off the roof of an adjacent parking garage with a new panorama flight mode in Site Scan. This creates a complete 360° view of the project that they can then share across the Truebeck team, give to their client, and use for marketing purposes.

What’s next

As they continue to map and capture the Uber HQ, Justin and his team are also building on their success by expanding their in-house drone operations to more projects across the Bay Area. Site and logistics planning continue to be a main focus, but they’re also going to focus on doing more detailed façade inspections, capture data for soil and stockpile quantities, and much more.

By quickly, cost-effectively, and safely using Site Scan to get the data they need, Truebeck continues to demonstrate its commitment to innovation and, as the company likes to say, “disrupting the ordinary.”

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