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Meet The All-New Site Scan Manager

When we launched Site Scan just over a year ago, we set out on a clear mission to be the leading drone data platform for AEC professionals across the world. A year in, it’s been remarkable to see how our customers—including established firms like PCL Construction, Kimley-Horn, and McKim & Creed—have made use of Site Scan on their jobsites and pioneered brand new ways to put drone data to work. For starters: they’ve used it to design new bridges, survey inaccessible terrain, build artificial lagoons, QA the concrete construction process, and much, much more.

Site Scan Manager, our web application, has played a crucial part in these projects. We’ve been working on making the platform even more powerful, and today we’re excited to mark another step in that journey: meet Site Scan Manager 3.0, the best Site Scan yet.

Take a tour and see what’s new:

Simple, intuitive interface

We’ve re-designed the interface to make Manager simpler and easier to use, with improved workflows for accessing your project and job lists, toolbar, and sidebar. Now, it’s easier than ever to manage your jobs, add annotations, and more. Check out this quick overview to see what’s possible:

Monitor site progress over time

Need to go back in time? No problem. Now, you can easily navigate to any job and watch as the orthomosaic transitions seamlessly from date to another. From there, it’s just a click to add CAD overlays, zoom in on details, and more.

Volume measurements

Measuring stockpiles by foot can be time-consuming, dangerous, and costly. Now, you can fly a drone over your aggregates in minutes, and then measure volumes directly within Site Scan Manager. Just tap around your area of interest, and Manager will automatically calculate volumes in cubic meters and cubic yards using our lowest point method. It’s a fast, accurate way to manage your resources, making earthworks projects simpler than ever before.

PDF Export

Need to quickly share your orthomosaic, overlay, or measurements? Use the new PDF export feature to download the information you need, and then easily send it to send to your team and other stakeholders.

But that’s not all…

There’s plenty more features in the new Manager: we’ve added guided workflows, for example, which are an educational resource that help you get the most out of the product. Later this week, we’ll be sharing another big announcement about our latest improvements—want to stay in the loop? Follow us on Twitter and keep an eye out for our next release!

Want to learn more about the new Site Scan and how you can use it on your next project? Contact a specialist to set up a call.

The post Meet The All-New Site Scan Manager appeared first on 3DR Site Scan - Commercial Drone Platform.

3DR Featured in Harvard Business Review

We’re excited to share that 3DR CEO, Chris Anderson, has published the feature story in the latest edition of the Harvard Business Review. His story, Drones Go To Work, charts the rise of the drone economy, and explains how they have quickly matured into an enterprise-ready technology that’s being used in construction, engineering, and more.

Here’s an excerpt: “The drone economy is real, and you need a strategy for exploiting it. Here’s how to think about what’s happening—and what’s going to happen. We’ll start back at the construction site, a work environment in desperate need of what drones can provide.

The construction industry is the world’s second largest (after agriculture), worth $8 trillion a year. But it’s remarkably inefficient. The typical commercial construction project runs 80% over budget and 20 months behind schedule, according to McKinsey.  

On-screen, in the architect’s CAD file, everything looks perfect. But on-site, in the mud and dust, things are different. And the difference between concept and reality is where about $3 trillion of that $8 trillion gets lost, in a cascade of change orders, rework, and schedule slips. Drones are meant to close that gap.

Mistakes, changes, and surprises are unavoidable whenever idealized designs meet the real world. But they can be minimized by spotting clashes early enough to fix them, work around them, or least update the CAD model to reflect changes for future work. There are lots of ways to measure a construction site, ranging from tape measures and clipboards to lasers, high-precision GPS, and even X-rays. But they all cost money and take time, so they’re not done often, at least not over the entire site. With drones, a whole site can be mapped daily, in high detail, for as little as $25 a day.”

Read the full story in HBR >

The post 3DR Featured in Harvard Business Review appeared first on 3DR Site Scan - Commercial Drone Platform.

Drones Are Redefining Infrastructure Design—Here’s Why

It’s increasingly common to hear the steady hum of a drone flying on a construction site. They’re being used to share progress updates from the sky, manage earthworks, perform cut-and-fills, and much more. But, there’s also an emerging use case for drones within the civil engineering space: as designers move from 2D towards 3D design and BIM workflows, the reality capture data that drones provide is making a huge impact on their projects. In short: drones are the latest tool in the civil engineer’s workflow, and they’re changing the way the world gets built.

To show how, we recently embarked on a project with Autodesk—working with their team of bridge design and reality capture specialists—to explore the impact that drones are having on infrastructure projects.

Identifying the site

We set out to show the complete drone to design workflow on a real-life project, and we quickly identified a great example: the Pinto Creek bridge, an aging structure east of Phoenix that the Arizona DOT is demolishing and replacing. Drone data is particularly useful for a site like Pinto Creek: it’s a large, steep ravine that a drone can quickly survey—going out in the field to collect this data would be time-consuming and, at times, unsafe. Also, flying a drone doesn’t require closing the road for manual inspection, which is particularly useful because there are no easy detours around the bridge.

Flying the drone

We flew our Site Scan drone to data platform at Pinto Creek and captured the entire area in a single flight. The flight took a half-hour, and we collected 358 high-resolution photos. Then, after processing the images into a number of different data products, we delivered a detailed point cloud to the Autodesk team for processing.

Processing the data

Ramesh Sridharan, Principal Research Engineer at Autodesk, imported the raw point cloud data into InfraWorks and processed it to extract and classify the features of the terrain. As the only structure in the area, it was easy to classify the bridge (shown in purple below), and remove it. In a matter of hours, the point cloud was filtered and a complete model was set up—aggregating point clouds, elevation data, and existing infrastructure—that provided a rich context to design the bridge in.

Using a point cloud provided by drone data, Ramesh said, “improves the speed, efficiency, and convenience of designing and modeling existing conditions. Fine details help designers identify existing problems, and then they can propose sound solutions for infrastructure challenges.”

Designing the new bridge

New bridge concept created in InfraWorks

Once the point cloud was prepared for design, Ara Ashikian, Sr. Product Line Manager at Autodesk, created a number bridge models with Infraworks in a matter of hours. He customized road alignments and grading, and could easily modify the parameters of each component that made up the bridge. The magic is behind the scenes: each component is fully parametric and dynamic, so designers can make changes while maintaining engineering principles.

Modifying the parametric components of the new bridge in InfraWorks

“Drone data can create rich point clouds, which are incredibly useful to guide parametric bridge modelling,” Ara said. “With the Pinto Creek point cloud, I designed a bridge within the real-world context of the surrounding ravine and its features.”

The new and old bridge within the point cloud provided by Site Scan

Sending to Revit for detailed design

In just two clicks, Ara sent the final bridge into Autodesk Revit in order to perform more detailed design. Because all of the underlying components of the structure were based on parametric geometry, they could easily be exported into Revit and other tools without needing to recreate them or perform any re-work.

Send the bridge to Revit for detailed design in just 2 clicks

Send the bridge to Revit for detailed design in just 2 clicks

Key Results

Design with existing conditions

Comparison with satellite data vs. a point cloud from Site Scan

All too often, civil engineers work with outdated surfaces when starting the design process—it can be difficult to access a reliable point cloud, so they will fall back on old survey data, satellite images, or blueprints as a replacement. Drones are fixing that: now, designers can quickly and easily collect up-to-date data on the existing conditions of the site, and design with confidence.

Improved collaboration and decision making

By putting drone data into tools like InfraWorks, civil engineers are able to rapidly design in 3D, then share models with clients and other stakeholders far earlier in the project. This makes it easier to modify and iterate on the design before committing to a single one.

Our customers across the country—for example, Atkins Engineering, a multinational engineering and design firm—are integrating drone data into their preliminary design workflow. According to Chris Harman, Civil Engineer at Atkins, “If you can quickly and easily get a 3D version in front of a client, it avoids a lot of changes later on.”

If you can quickly and easily get a 3D version in front of a client, it avoids a lot of changes later on.” — Chris Harman, Civil Engineer, Atkins Engineering

Digitize your as-builts

Drones provide value long after the initial design phases, too: they enable constructors to digitize their jobsite as it evolves, and compare as-builts to the original BIM or CAD models. This makes it easy to identify any issues before the fix becomes costly or time-consuming.

Whether they’re looking to get feedback earlier in the infrastructure design process, create more accurate 3D concepts, or re-digitize the job site during the construction phases, drones and tools like InfraWorks are proving to be crucial tools for engineering firms across the country.

The post Drones Are Redefining Infrastructure Design—Here’s Why appeared first on 3DR Site Scan - Commercial Drone Platform.

What’s Next For The Commercial Drone Industry?

Talking Part 107, ROI, and drone implementation on-site with with Jeremiah Karpowicz, Executive Editor of Commercial UAV News


Under the editorial leadership of Jeremiah Karpowicz, Commercial UAV News has become an authoritative voice in the commercial drone space, with a distinct focus on the ways that drones are being used in verticals like civil infrastructure, mining & aggregates, surveying & mapping, and more. We recently sat down with Jeremiah, who serves as the Executive Editor of the publication and also hosts the annual Commercial UAV Expo, to discuss the state of the commercial drone industry, challenges with implementing drone operations, and how drones are driving ROI for construction and engineering firms across the country.

1. Why did you start Commercial UAV News? What’s your goal?

I used to be in the film & TV industry, where drones continue to play a big role in to capture aerial photos and video. The concept of seeing how drone technology will develop across different industries was really interesting to me, but the commercial drone space is still very much in a place of figuring out what works and running with it. As much as I like reading about concepts like the completely autonomous farm of the future—where the drone charges and flies itself with no human involvement—there’s a practical element of that that we need to work out right now. That work is being done—and the space is becoming more defined with regulatory developments like Part 107—so telling these stories is really interesting and is what makes this a great space to be a part of.

Commercial UAV is obviously focused on drones, but ultimately it’s not about these specific tools or technologies, it’s about the practical applications of the technology, what it’s actually used for, and how it can actually make a difference for the construction professional, for example, or the mining professional. And exploring that is really exciting.

2. In your excellent 7 Commercial Drone Predictions for 2017 report, you predicted that we’ll see a transition from “exploring” to “implementing” drone solutions in the enterprise space. How that has played out in the first few months of 2017?

We definitely saw this transition—from exploring to implementing—happen at the end of last year, and through this year so far. A lot of that is due to Part 107. Before Part 107, there were a lot of people who didn’t want to take the time to dig into the tech and see what it could do for them, because the regulations were too high of a barrier. Now, with that out of the way, these companies are looking at what that implementation actually looks like.

One thing I didn’t mention in that report is just how big the data aspect is when it comes to implementation. These professionals don’t just want more data—they want answers. Figuring out the data piece— what comes in, how it’s processed, where it goes, and what answers can be associated with it—can be a challenge, and many professionals are spending time figuring out how this works and what process is best for them. I think that’s something that a lot of organizations are realizing in a major way this year.

“Professionals don’t just want more data—they want answers.”

3. Part 107 was a huge regulatory development. How has it impacted commercial drone usage so far? How can it be improved going forward?

When Part 107 first came out, the feedback was mostly positive, but at the same time people positioned it as just a step in the right direction that could have gone much further. This is because it didn’t include things like flying beyond visual line of sight, or not being able to fly over people who aren’t participating. These are probably two of the biggest hurdles that Part 107 didn’t address.

That being said, there’s plenty of opportunity with Part 107 right now. That’s something I try to showcase as much as I can, because even though future regulation will allow operators to do even more, what they can do today under Part 107 is significant.

4. Drones are starting to find their place on an increasing number of jobsites across the world, but we’re still a long way from widespread adoption. What do you think needs to be done to speed up adoption?

I think there are two main barriers to adoption: first, the expectations around what drones can and can’t do, and second, demonstrating ROI.

There’s an expectation that drones can make everything faster, better, and cheaper, but that’s a false narrative: there’s certain instances when using a drone makes a ton of sense, and some when it doesn’t. There are times where it’s more appropriate to use a surveyor, and there are times when you’re better off with a drone. Using a drone can make a given task faster or cheaper, but it’s not necessarily going to make everything faster or cheaper. There’s different circumstances where it makes sense to fly drones, and one of the challenges around adoption is determining where and how the technology fits best.

In terms of ROI, that’s a question I get from professionals over and over. Quantifying ROI can be a challenge. How do you quantify the return of a mistake that wasn’t made? Someone like your customer, Mark Bogh of Bogh Engineering, is at the helm of a small company, so he can oversee that entire operation and recognize first hand what kind of difference drones can make. But, in a larger organization, that sometimes doesn’t get as high up the chain as it needs to.

Ultimately, drones are a tool to use in certain cases, when it makes sense to. Once professionals have that tool in their hand, they start asking themselves new questions, and wonder, “wouldn’t it be great if _________?” Then they try things out, and then they end up creating a whole new efficiency for their site. That process is going to accelerate adoption in a major way.

5. With ROI in mind, what are some of the most interesting use cases—with a demonstrable return on investment—that you’ve seen for drones in construction and engineering?

The examples that 3DR laid out in your recent article—transferring a workflow from 2 weeks down to a day or two—are really poignant, and it’s tough to argue with those kind of bottom line numbers. Those are some of the better hard numbers that I’ve seen out there.

“The examples that 3DR laid out in your recent article—transferring a workflow from 2 weeks down to a day or two—are really poignant, and it’s tough to argue with those kind of bottom line numbers.”

In terms of use cases, there’s a lot to be said about using drones to gather info that’s going to help either settle arguments or not cause an argument in the first place. That came up in the interview that I did with Mark Bogh. Mark talked about how, for example, a contractor on a job site accidentally messing up the grade will be something he’s on the hook for financially unless he has proof that wasn’t his fault. Drones have given him that exact evidence and prevent him for major headaches and unnecessary expenses.

Monitoring earthwork at the Bogh Engineering site

This use case also ties into the frequency of data collection. Before drones, there was an expectation about how often you could go out and survey your site to get the info you need. This was sometimes only done once a year, or every six months, depending on the project size. When you’re taking that kind of infrequent measurement, countless different things can change or go wrong which impact the schedule and budget for a project.. By being able to fly a drone either on a quarterly, monthly, or weekly basis, really changes what you’re actually seeing on-site and what you’re getting out of the data, and you might learn that the numbers you had associated with a given project actually weren’t correct. You might find, for example, that the return you’re getting should be a lot better. Drones are a tool that can enable people to see that.

“By being able to fly a drone either on a quarterly, monthly, or weekly basis really changes what you’re actually seeing on-site and what you’re getting out of the data.”

Thinking back to Mark Bogh: he can get data and information that he didn’t have access to otherwise, and it gives him and his subcontractors context around what’s happening—or what isn’t happening—on a project. Ultimately, they’re all working together towards the same end goal. Drones are helping Mark get subcontractors on the same page, and most of the time this is just about working out honest mistakes: jobsites are busy and chaotic, so being able to give people resources to help them sort through where things are—or where they should be—is something that benefits everybody.

6. What’s your vision for the commercial drone industry? How would you like to see it evolve?

My vision comes back to something we’ve talked about right here: for drones to be seen as a tool. Drones have been positioned as this very different thing. Some people talk about and think about them as this amazing technology, something separate from the tools we use every day. They really aren’t though. Drones are tools, just like any other that a professional might want to use on a daily basis for a certain task. 

Thankfully, thinking of them in this way is becoming more pervasive throughout the industry. People are finally starting to think of this technology as a tool, just like they would a bulldozer or software like AutoCAD. Once that mentality is even more pervasive, we’ll see a lot more widespread adoption, because there will be a lot more people who will be ready to dig into the logistics of bringing drones on-site. Then they’ll be able to start asking my favorite question: “wouldn’t it be great if…”

The post What’s Next For The Commercial Drone Industry? appeared first on 3DR Site Scan - Commercial Drone Platform.

5 Ways Drones Are Transforming Earthworks Projects

Drones have quickly become one of the most versatile tools on the construction site. Whether it’s for documentation before pouring concrete, making pre-design processes more efficient, or speeding up data collection for infrastructure projects, drones have become the aerial eye of the jobsite, helping construction professionals work better and more productively.

For our Site Scan customers and on jobsites across the world, one area that drones have had a big impact is in managing earthworks projects. We’ve identified 5 key reasons why:

1. Faster site surveying

For most field engineers, there’s a simple reason for using drones for earthworks: speed. It can take hours to walk the jobsite and measure aggregates and stockpiles with traditional workflows, and then it usually takes 1-2 days to process the data and produce the final deliverables. Drones are doing this work in a fraction of the time.

For example, one of our customers, PCL Construction, flew a drone at their jobsite in Florida and captured the entire area in less than 12 minutes. They then processed the images, and in a matter of hours they created an orthomosaic and a point cloud of the site.

One of our customers, PCL Construction, flew a drone at their jobsite in Florida and captured the entire area in less than 12 minutes.

2. Cut-and-fill made simple

To perform cut-and-fill analyses and comparisons, most firms will conduct a topographic survey and collect points on a grid throughout their site. For large sites or areas with complex terrain, this survey can take days to perform, and post-processing the data typically takes another day. Drones have dramatically reduced the manual work needed to perform a cut-and-fill: once aerial data is collected, drone software platforms like Site Scan enables cloud processing and and export into native Autodesk file formats like an RCS, a point cloud file that can be used in Civil 3D.

For example, one of our customer, Bogh Engineering, a family-owned firm building schools in California, created this cut-and-fill analysis diagram after importing drone data into Civil 3D:

Cut-and-fill analysis using data from Site Scan

Bogh has been able to streamline their cut-and-fill workflow with drones, making it 4X more productive and and empowering the whole team get valuable insights with the push of a button.

Using Site Scan helps us better manage our resources and save days of work on-site. — Mark Bogh, Bogh Engineering

3. Verifying work and managing conflicts

Whether your earthworks projects are self-performed or done by grading contractors, it’s vital to regularly monitor project progress, especially at key milestones and handoffs, in order to ensure that work is being done as planned. Collecting this progress data regularly has been a challenge in the past—for many firms, it’s too expensive and time-consuming to regularly document their site, and they often end up with gaps in their data that could have been used to improve communication with stakeholders or resolve disputes with subcontractors.

Drones have helped bridge this gap: many of our customers fly their site once per day, process their images into an orthomosaic, and then create an elevation map that can then be compared to the initial site plans as the project goes on. This helps document and monitor progress at important phases of the project, and enables more focused quality control.

4. Streamlined cost estimates

To keep projects running smoothly and within budget, field engineers often do volume measurements to calculate the cost and labor time involved in managing their resources. By flying a drone, it’s possible to scan a jobsite in minutes, and then import the data into tools like Civil 3D and create a surface model that can be used for cost and labor estimates.

5. Improved worker safety

In the field, landfill personnel spend days walking piles and measuring aggregates with traditional survey tools. This is not only time-consuming, but it also puts them in harm’s way—they’re walking up and down steep slopes that are uneven and jagged, and it’s all too common for them to slip and fall. With drones, landfill personnel can inspect their stockpiles from a safe distance and not put themselves at risk—all while collecting millions of more points than ever before.

The post 5 Ways Drones Are Transforming Earthworks Projects appeared first on 3DR Site Scan - Commercial Drone Platform.

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