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An Inside Look At Gerdau’s Drone Program

Gerdau is one of the largest steelmakers in the world, and they’re using drones to take their work to the next level.

Headquartered in Sao Paulo, Gerdau employs over 30,000 people across 11 countries, and focuses on transforming iron ore and steel scrap into full-fledged steel products.

Gustavo Franca, IT Manager, and Rafael Alves, Mine Engineer, helped established an in-house drone program at Gerdau in Brazil as a proof of concept in early 2018, with an interest in how drone mapping can help them better capture and use topography data on their iron mines.

The project: Varzea do Lopes iron mine in Brazil

To start, the Gerdau team wanted to use drones to map Varzea do Lopes, an iron ore mine near the city of Belo Horizonte in Brazil. Varzea do Lopes produces over 6 million tonnes of iron ore every year, and supply it to a number of their steel plants across the country.

The need: safe, accurate drone surveying for mine planning

“Safety is our top priority,” Gustavo said. “We’re always looking for new tools and methods for improving safety on our projects.” Gerdau had a crew of six people at Varzea do Lopes that performed RTK surveys by foot: a time consuming workflow—especially given the size of the mine, the pit alone covering more than 250 acres—that took between 24-48 hours to collect and process data into final deliverables. They were looking to keep their team out of harm’s way and improve their survey productivity.

The Gerdau team was also looking for a tool to create accurate, precise point clouds that they could bring into MineSight, their mine planning software from Hexagon Mining. This would help with blast planning, measuring stockpiles, documenting the mine at key stages, and with longer term projects such as design and expansions. “It was important that we have the capability to export drone data into other tools, such as MineSight, to calculate and compare volumes and measurements,” Gustavo said.

As Gerdau started to build their in-house drone program, they had a few key decision criteria for their drone software of choice, including:

1. Easy to fly and share data

2. Best-in-class vertical and horizontal accuracy, within 1.5% accuracy of laser scanning

3. File formats that can be used in MineSight and by the rest of the Gerdau team

The solution: 3DR Site Scan with the DJI Phantom 4 Pro

“We recognized several opportunities to use drones on our mines,” Gustavo said, “and we decided to work with 3DR and use Site Scan.”

Rafael Alves, Mine Engineer at Gerdau, flying the DJI Phantom 4 Pro with Site Scan

They set over 40 ground control points across different parts of the mine and have been regularly surveying using Site Scan and a DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone. They’re performing volume measurements directly in Site Scan, comparing orthomosaics to track progress over time, and sharing rich maps and 3D models with the rest of the company.

They’re making the data accessible to other parts of Gerdau, such as the geology team. “Our geologists are using georeferenced maps and point clouds to understand the different types of rocks on-site,” Rafael said. “It makes their life easier: now they don’t have to go to the mine every time they need data. They can just view the latest flight data online to get the answers they need.”

Comparing mine changes over time

Bringing the data into MineSight

Once they have an up-to-date point cloud of their site, the Gerdau team will export an LAS file from Site Scan and bring it into MineSight for measurements and planning. “We use our point clouds in MineSight to draw mine plans, which helps us decide how much we actually need to mine,” Rafael continues. “The workflow is easy: we just import the point cloud, generate the surface, and use the point cloud mesher feature in MineSight to do our work. We then make the plan and share it with our operations crew each month so they can execute it. We need accurate topography data to do this well, and that’s where Site Scan comes in.”

3D mesh of the Varzea do Lopes mine

"The workflow is easy: we just import the point cloud, generate the surface, and use the point cloud mesher feature in MineSight to do our work."

Rafael AlvesMine Engineer

The results

1. Improved safety and survey productivity

By flying regularly and mapping the mine with Site Scan, Gerdau is making their topographic survey workflow far safer and significantly more efficient compared to conventional methods and laser scanning:

“We’re protecting our team with this workflow,” Gustavo explains. “It brings a safety benefit that’s very important to us.”

Their drone program also makes it possible to perform surveys and inspections more frequently: “In the past, I could inspect my operation once a week,” Gustavo said. “Now, I can inspect it every day if necessary, because it’s so easy to do so. By building this drone program in Gerdau, we’re transforming our current process and creating new ones.”

"In the past, I could inspect my operation once per week. Now, I can inspect it every day."

Gustavo FrancaIT Manager

Comparing changes mine changes over time with 3D model comparison

2. Accurate data

With volume measurements being such an important part of their day-to-day work, Gerdau wanted to ensure that their drone data was just as accurate as RTK GPS and laser scanning. To compare accuracy, they performed a test survey of a stockpile with three different methods: conventional RTK GPS, laser scanning, and drone capture with Site Scan. Using laser scan data as the baseline, they found that the volume measurements from Site Scan had only a 1.16% difference from the laser scan data, and they were more accurate than the topography data captured with RTK GPS.

"Volume measurements from Site Scan had only a 1.16% difference from laser scan data, and they were more accurate than topography data captured with RTK GPS."

When comparing cross-sections of a mine wall between Site Scan data and conventional RTK data, they found that the profile lines were nearly the exact same:

3. $100,000+ annual savings

By reducing the need to capture topography data with RTK GPS, Gerdau’s drone program has saved over $26,000 USD (R$110,000 Brazilian Real) in 2018 alone (including the cost of the drone and Site Scan software). As they continue to standardize on Site Scan across projects and use it throughout the full year, they’re on track to earn a return on investment of approximately $107,000 USD (R$430,000 Brazilian Real) in 2019.


What’s next

Now that Gerdau has found initial success with their drone program on the Varzea do Lopes iron mine, they’re looking to scale drone operations to more projects throughout the company. As Rafael said: “Any part of our business that relies on topography data should be using a drone and Site Scan.”

For example, in addition to their mining operations, Gerdau is now starting to use drones at their steel processing plants in Brazil, using high-resolution orthomosaics to better track and manage their inventory.

“We want to continue expanding our use of Site Scan because of its ease of use, user experience, and central management of data. In the future, we’ll be managing a fleet of drones in this platform, and get valuable insights about our operations every day.”

The post An Inside Look At Gerdau’s Drone Program appeared first on 3DR.

3DR and Yuneec Announce Joint Venture Based on Dronecode Platform

Today, we’re thrilled to announce that we’ve established a US-based joint venture with Yuneec—a world leading manufacturer of commercial and consumer UAVs—to bring new products based on the Dronecode platform to market.

The joint venture, 3DR Government Services, is focused on serving the security and open platform needs of US government customers and their vendors in construction, engineering, and public safety. 

3DR Government Services will combine Yuneec’s UAV system expertise and manufacturing scale with the capabilities enabled by 3DR’s software. Our first product is the Yuneec 3DR H520-G, available in October, which includes the complete Site Scan platform integrated with a custom version of the Dronecode-based Yuneec H520 sUAS. It also includes a simplified and smaller controller designed for Apple’s iOS devices, and works with both Autodesk and Esri platforms, the leading software ecosystems in the construction and geospatial industries respectively.

The H520-G, which includes a full integration with Site Scan and a new, simpler controller.

We made this move to support the increased demand for vendor choice by government agencies and contractors at the federal, state and local level, along with increased need for open platforms that can be security certified and more easily approved for operations beyond the constraints of today’s FAA’s Part 107 waivers. Also, use of the Dronecode PX4 software is already becoming a public sector standard: the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx)—their effort to create a new, standardized platform for small, low-cost UAVs—has specified the use of Dronecode PX4 in part because its open source core and commercial-friendly BSD license, which allows for easy integration and validation by different vendors.

Both 3DR and Yuneec have a long history of supplying UAS solutions to US government agencies and contractors: we work closely with the US Department of the Interior, the Department of Energy, many public safety organizations, and a number of state DOTs across the country. The Department of the Interior, for example, has a UAS fleet to map public land and better respond to wildfires. State DOTs use UAS solutions to safely inspect and rehabilitate bridges, while public safety organizations use them to get an aerial view to better respond to emergencies. Construction and engineering firms contracted on public sector projects also have a wide array of use cases for drones: capturing up-to-date existing conditions when designing new infrastructure, for example, and be able to easily map and share progress over time. By establishing 3DR Government Services and introducing the H520-G, 3DR and Yuneec are now able to go to market together as a fully US-based company and provide public agencies and contractors a reliable, cost-effective, American-made solution.

As our CEO, Chris Anderson, said: “This joint venture cements a strong relationship that goes back to the start of Dronecode and the shared belief that an open software platform would help the drone industry grow and mature faster, just as it has in so many other industries. For US government customers who are increasingly looking for US-based trusted solutions, this combination of global leaders in hardware and software provides the best of both worlds.”

“For US government customers who are increasingly looking for US-based trusted solutions, this combination of global leaders in hardware and software provides the best of both worlds.”

— Chris Anderson, CEO, 3DR

Michael Jiang, CEO of Yuneec International, adds: “Since our launch of the H520 last year, Yuneec has committed to provide public agencies and commercial enterprises with a sUAS that improves their workflow effectiveness. This strategic partnership with 3DR is yet another powerful example of that ongoing commitment. We’ve built a commercial enterprise platform based on the Dronecode open source and the H520 system. Together with 3DR, we have leveraged that implementation to provide a robust and secure solution for US government agencies.”

To learn more about 3DR’s suite of offerings for government projects, including our Esri integration, visit 3dr.com/government. If you’re a public agency or vendor looking for a UAS solution, reach out to our team—we’re happy to answer any questions you may have.

The post 3DR and Yuneec Announce Joint Venture Based on Dronecode Platform appeared first on 3DR.

3DR Announces Site Scan Esri® Edition for Esri Users

We’ve partnered with Esri® to develop Site Scan Esri® Edition, a custom version of our iOS app for drone data capture that works seamlessly with ArcGIS Online and streamlines processing in Esri’s Drone2Map software.

With this joint solution, we will complement Esri’s drone data offerings by creating an end-to-end package that includes full mission planning to easily capture and display drone data, and a simple workflow for using the data in the Esri ArcGIS ecosystem. With this solution, you’ll able to connect to ArcGIS Online with an Esri sign-in, and the app will allow you to directly use Esri data layers from ArcGIS Online—including custom data layers from the user’s ArcGIS Online organization account—as base and reference data for your mission planning.

“Esri started at the dawn of the space age with satellite data. Now drones can continue that mission at even higher resolution and frequency,” said our CEO, Chris Anderson. “I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to work with Esri to help its users easily capture and analyse drone data, giving them another powerful tool to measure and manage the world.”

Esri customers can use any drone currently supported by Site Scan, including the Yuneec 3DR H520-G, which is a custom version of the Yuneec H520 commercial drone. Based on the Dronecode PX4 software, the H520-G is designed to be an open and secure drone option for use on US government projects, making it a perfect complement to Esri’s FedRAMP certification, creating a complete, government-friendly drone mapping solution.

As Cody Benkelman, Imagery Product Manager at Esri, said: “3DR has been a leader in the drone industry, and we are excited to support this development effort. A drone flight planning app that connects directly to ArcGIS Online will provide great value to Esris worldwide customer base, and simplify the process of ensuring successful projects using Drone2Map.”

Site Scan Esri Edition will be available on the Esri Marketplace in late September for free to all ArcGIS customers. To learn more about 3DR’s suite of offerings for government projects, including the US government-friendly UAS, the H520-G, visit 3dr.com/government. If you’re a US public agency or vendor looking for a UAS solution, reach out to our team—we’re happy to answer any questions you may have.

The post 3DR Announces Site Scan Esri® Edition for Esri Users appeared first on 3DR.

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.”

The post Building Uber’s New HQ With Drones appeared first on 3DR.

Drone Fleet Management, Now in Site Scan

In every enterprise drone program, there’s a lot of moving parts to keep track of.

You have vehicles to monitor and maintain, batteries to charge, and a team of pilots to lead. As you add drones to your fleet and expand to more projects, this can quickly become a hassle, especially on the software end: you shouldn’t have to use one tool for flying, processing and analyzing drone data, and another tool for managing drones, cameras, and pilots.

That’s why we’re introducing fleet management, a central dashboard in Site Scan that makes it easier than ever for you to manage and scale your drone operations. With our fleet management capability, you can automatically track flight data for every drone, battery, and camera, along with each pilot that flies Site Scan. Then, you can view and analyze all of this data in our cloud-based dashboard, just a click away from your drone maps and models.

Fleet management makes it easier than ever for you to monitor and maintain your drone operations—and get visibility into your vehicle and pilot activity across your entire company—no matter where you are. For larger, multi-state programs at companies such as PCL Construction, Arcadis, and Kimley-Horn, for example, this single platform gives them complete oversight of their drone operations, helps manage risk and compliance, and makes it easy to identify any problems with their fleet early that need to be fixed. 

How it works

Just click the ‘Fleet’ tab in Site Scan, and you can see all of the drones and batteries that your organization uses. In the vehicles tab, you’ll see a list of vehicles flown, their total flights, last pilot, and most recent flight:

Each vehicle also has its own page, where you can view its flight count, total flight time, model and flight controller serial number, and more.

In the batteries tab, you can view every battery used, total flights, capacity, any warning messages, and their most recent flight:

Looking ahead

Fleet management is another step in our journey to build the complete, enterprise-level drone software platform for construction, engineering, and mining teams. This is just the beginning—we’re working on adding more fleet management capabilities in the near future, such as:

• Pilot profiles: view individual profiles of your pilots, and see what date their remote pilot certification is valid until

• View drone registration and insurance expiration dates

• Making it easier to unlock no-fly zones through DJI

Fleet management is included as part of every Site Scan subscription. To learn more about Site Scan and get a free web demonstration, set up a consultation with our drone technology experts.

The post Drone Fleet Management, Now in Site Scan appeared first on 3DR.

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