We’re excited to announce that 3DR has recently raised $53 million in capital as part of our Series D funding round. This round includes both new equity and conversion of debt equity. It was led by Atlantic Bridge, and with investments from the Autodesk Forge Fund, True Ventures, Foundry Group, Mayfield, and a number of other fantastic investors that we’re proud to partner with.
With this funding, we’ll continue to build our flagship product, Site Scan, the complete drone data platform for the construction and engineering industries. Construction is an $8 trillion global industry, but a typical commercial construction project runs 80% over budget and 20 months behind schedule. A big reason for this is the disconnect between as-designed and as-built: when design plans don’t align with the realities of construction, it hurts productivity on-site, slows down projects, and results in trillions of dollars of change orders and re-work.
Reality capture from the sky — made possible by advancements in drone technologies — is helping bridge that gap. It helps teams monitor and report on progress, identify issues, collect useful, actionable data that integrates seamlessly with Autodesk and GIS tools, helping bring the office and the field closer than ever before.
“We are excited to lead this round in 3DR and see tremendous opportunity for the deployment of Site Scan across a wide range of industry use cases,” said Brian Long, Managing Partner at Atlantic Bridge. “The end-to-end reality capture provided by Site Scan, combined with Autodesk software, provides the most comprehensive platform for the measurement and monitoring of progress on construction sites, resulting in potentially huge efficiency gains for the industry.”
The strategic investment from the Autodesk Forge Fund — which follows an initial investment made in early 2016 — demonstrates Autodesk’s commitment to 3DR and reality capture software. We have already harnessed the power of the Forge platform to build key features for Site Scan, and will continue to utilize Forge to accelerate product development and deepen workflow integrations with Autodesk products.
Bogh Engineering sees a 4X increase in productivity and is able to prevent costly disputes with other subcontractors by flying Site Scan on every construction site once a week.
Headquartered in Beaumont, California, Bogh Engineering is a 3rd generation family owned construction and engineering company with 65 employees. It focuses on construction of public schools, and is currently working on 14 job sites including building the 1.4 million square foot Indio High School. “90% of our business is focused on schools because we understand the business, the bureaucratic complications, and we can work directly with the client”, said Mark Bogh, owner and 30 year industry veteran.
Bogh Engineering’s core capability is pouring concrete, from flooring to vertical structures. The company also covers other activities to prepare a site for concrete construction: surveying, demolition, and site grading. Site surveying is a recurring process and happens before and after every other major activity. Bogh Engineering also surveys the site before it takes over work from other subcontractors [Image 1]. Survey data makes sure work starts as agreed in the contract, and is completed according to plan.
Bogh Engineering employs its own survey crew that drives to each site and performs a topographic survey with traditional equipment. A survey of a school site usually takes 1 to 2 days of work for a one-man survey crew. “We needed a solution that helps us quickly and frequently run surveys. This was the initial trigger that made us look for a system like Site Scan,” Mark said.
Creating a cut-and-fill analysis with topographic surveying data
One of the largest projects Bogh Engineering is currently working on is the demolition and rebuild of Indio High School in Indio, CA. Work started in February 2013 and is now in the fifth and final phase. Before and after working on grading the site, the Bogh Engineering team surveys the site and uses the surveying data to perform a cut-and-fill analysis with Civil 3D. Damian Garcia, staff engineer at Bogh explained us his workflow:
Perform a topographic survey and collect points on a grid every 25ft using a total station.
Import the coordinates of all the measured points into Civil 3D to create a topographic surface of the site.
Create a design surface in Civil 3D using the surface creation tools.
Compare the z-dimension of this surface (existing grade) with the design subgrade of the plan.
Areas that are between +/- 0.10 ft from the subgrade are considered correct and represented in green. Areas in blue indicate that the grade is too low and requires fill (or raise) in excess of +0.10 ft. Areas in red indicate that the grade is too high, and requires cut in excess of -0.10 ft [Image 2].
This view allows the team to have the complete picture on the work that needs to be done at the beginning of the project, or at the end, to check that the work has been completed as planned.
Last month, Bogh Engineering started work on Phase 5 of the Indio High School project, which includes building 2 toilet/concessions buildings, 1 maintenance building, 3 new baseball fields, 5 basketball courts, and a new parking. In this phase, the team is in charge of demolition, grading, and building concrete.
To estimate how much dirt needs to be moved the team performs a cut-and-fill analysis. The surveyor spent two days on site and measured 324 points in total. Post-processing the data by a civil engineer in the office in Civil 3D took another day [Image 3].
Image 3: The Bogh Engineering staff surveyor collected a total of 324 survey points on the Indio High School phase 5 site using a total station.
4X increase in productivity with Site Scan
Today, Bogh Engineering uses Site Scan to do surveying work. Flying the Site Scan drone on the 17 acre site of Indio High School and collect all the data only takes 30 minutes. During the two flights, Site Scan captured 410 images. These images were then processed in Site Scan Manager into an orthomosaic and a 3D point cloud in about 3 hours.
Image 4: Colin, certified FAA Part 107 pilot, surveying the phase 5 site with Site Scan.
The team had previously collected 10 ground control points at the beginning of the project in only 1 hour. The control points can now be imported into Site Scan Manager to georeference the model so that it can be overlaid with the subgrade. The same control points are left untouched on the ground and can be used to georeference any model from future flights.
The whole operation, from collecting the data with Site Scan and processing the images into 3D point clouds, took just half a day. This represents a 4X increase in productivity on this specific site compared to traditional topographic surveying [Image 5].
Image 5: With Site Scan, Bogh Engineering now only spends a fraction of the time in the field.
“Now, it only takes me two days instead of weeks to survey all my 14 active construction sites with Site Scan” – Mark Bogh
“Data processed with Site Scan is also much more granular” says Damian Garcia “The 3D point cloud of the Indio High School Phase 5 had 3 million points and allows for much more accurate cut-and-fill analyses.” [Image 6]
Image 6: Cut-and-fill analysis of Phase 5 using data from Site Scan.
Saving time and money with better documentation and preventing disputes with other subcontractors
In addition to flying the sites for bidding and checking its own work, Bogh Engineering started flying Site Scan to collect a comprehensive as-built picture of sites for documentation. Multiple companies are working on the same site together with Bogh Engineering and disputes between the different subcontractors happen all the time [Image 7].
Image 7: Disputes with other subcontractors happen at project handovers.
This pushes Bogh Engineering to survey a site when they take over work from another subcontractors to ensure that work has been completed according to the plan. This is important to avoid expenses that are beyond the scope of Bogh’s contract.
Mark believes that having all important records accessible online saves the company time and money. Now, all records from sites are kept in 3DR’s cloud-based platform, Site Scan Manager. Employees with the proper permission levels can access the weekly orthomosaic views, images, and flight information. “If anything ever comes up, it’s a simple click to find month-old documentation of the site.” Mark said. “Especially orthomosaic views can help reconstruct an event and recognize what work has been done and when”.
Mark explains that he identified an error in a trench work from another subcontractor just by looking at the orthomosaic view from the latest flight with Site Scan. He immediately sent the subcontractor’s project manager a change order for $400 attaching the orthomosaic view from Site Scan as proof.
“I spent the whole last week in court because of disputes with other subcontractors. Documenting the site would have saved me that.” – Mark Bogh
He also describes a previous project in Perris, CA where disputes between graders and the concrete contractor on whose data is correct dragged him to court. The other subcontractor’s work was off by 15,000 cubic yards. The correct data saved Mark $160,000 on one project.
Given the success they had in the first two months of using Site Scan, Mark and his team want to increase the frequency and fly every site once a week to collect data for documentation.
“I want to have a site view for documentation from every site once a week.” – Mark Bogh
Weekly orthomosaics from the sites will allow the team to have the necessary data to better communicate with other subcontractors and have proof in case of disputes. “The biggest advantage of all is that now we can prevent these unpleasant situations from even happening. Having views of the site does not only allow my team to react proactively and warn other subcontractors that errors have been made, but it also speeds up collaboration with them,” Mark said.
Mark said that he has already recommended Site Scan to other construction companies in the Beaumont region. He believes that instead of trying to sell someone on the product, all that is necessary is to educate people about what Site Scan is capable of. “I’ve showed other contractors the data collected with Site Scan and how easy it is to implement into what they do every day. Every small engineering firm should own one.”
Built in 1949, the Pinto Creek Bridge is a historic crossing on Highway 60, an hour and a half east of Phoenix, Arizona at the foothills of the Tonto National Forest. Built as part of President Roosevelt’s public works initiative, the steel arch bridge sits atop a steep ravine with scenic views of the countryside.
With over 6 decades of use, however, the bridge has started to show its age: inspections and appraisals have returned poor ratings, and the bridge was considered “structurally deficient” in a 2014 review.
Though the bridge is still open and in use, its decay led to the decision to replace it. Because there are no easy detours on this roadway, the replacement bridge will be built just north of the current bridge, and then the old Pinto Creek bridge will be demolished.
3D rendering of the new bridge across Pinto Creek
The project is currently in its early stages: the Arizona Department of Transportation has been conducting geotechnical surveys of surrounding ravine, ensuring that the land is suitable for new infrastructure. Any new construction in this area must first go through an exhaustive survey process in order to ensure its sustainability and effect on the surrounding ravine within the Tonto Forest. It’s vital that the bridge blends with its natural surroundings and has limited impact on the existing plants and rock outcroppings. The ravine is approximately 80 meters deep, so traditional survey methods would require at least a day to complete the site from top to bottom. This includes using climbing equipment, rappelling down the ravine and walking the rocky terrain by foot, which comes with its own set of risks, hazards, and inefficiencies.
Surveying the Pinto Creek — a large, environmentally sensitive site with rough terrain — presented the perfect use case for drones, which are able to quickly capture aerial data and help land surveyors stay out of harm’s way. 3DR went to Pinto Creek and used Site Scan to capture the full context of the bridge and its underlying topology.
Jeremiah Johnson, Solutions Architect at 3DR, was the pilot for the day. He took off from the west end of the bridge, using the Site Scan app to plan the flight over the approximately 7.5 acre site. Jeremiah set up the crosshatch flight, and picked the appropriate altitude and gimbal angle for a scan of this size.
Sample image from Site Scan Field iPad app, showing the crosshatch grid of the Pinto Creek Bridge
In half an hour, we surveyed the entire area with a single flight, taking 358 high-res photos and collecting millions of precise datapoints.
In half an hour, we surveyed the entire site with a single crosshatch flight, taking 358 high-res photos and collecting millions of datapoints.
“Mapping this ravine using traditional methods would take, at the very least, a day to survey from the top to bottom,” Jeremiah said. “The bigger challenge, though, is in processing the data from this traditional survey: to get the same kind of accuracy as Site Scan, it would take approximately two weeks of processing time.”
Jeremiah, Solutions Architect at 3DR, piloted this flight. It took just half an hour to capture the whole site.
What, exactly, does a single 30 minute flight get you? By the end of the day, we had fully processed 4 main deliverables: an orthomosaic, a digital elevation model, overlays, and a point cloud.
By processing the 358 captured images, we stitched together a detailed orthomosaic of the entire site, providing clear aerial data that can be manipulated in Autodesk tools like Civil 3D, Infraworks, and more.
Orthomosaic image of the Pinto Creek Bridge from a single crosshatch flight, 30 degree gimbal
2. Digital Elevation Model (DEM)
We captured data that could be used to create a digital elevation model, giving surveyors a clear, accurate view of different heights throughout the ravine.
DEM in ReCap 360 Pro
By bringing the topographical survey data into Site Scan and overlaying it on the orthomosaic, we’re able to easily compare reality to the original surey plans, and uncover new insights about the location.
4. Point Cloud
Using ReCap 360 Pro, we then created a point cloud of the site, which can easily be edited, measured, and annotated throughout the design and engineering process.
By flying Site Scan, we were able to capture the Pinto Creek Bridge in entirely new ways, collect useful, actionable information for surveyors and constructors, and demonstrate just how fast — and safe — aerial data capture can be.
What would happen if we had an aerial view of our job sites?
That was the question that Bill Bennington and André Tousignant, as part of the virtual design team at PCL Construction in Orlando, starting asking themselves years ago. While they had experience using advanced reality capture technologies in the field, for a long time the PCL Construction team couldn’t justify using drones in construction: they were expensive, and time-consuming to set up, pilot, and process the data. Even if they got over those hurdles, stringent regulations made it difficult to be legally allowed to fly in the first place.
However, the technology continued to improve, and in August 2016 the FAA Part 107 regulation came into effect, dramatically lowering the legal barriers to entry for commercial drone pilots. Bill and André finally saw an opportunity to finally bring drones on-site, and they started exploring how drones might drive value on a few key projects.
Their first step? Finding and evaluating different solutions, and determining which one was the best fit.
Which Drone Solution?
To get started, Bill, André, and their VDC team developed 5 core qualification criteria to find the right solution for their needs:
1. Data, Not Video
Initially, PCL thought that a top use case for drones was making videos for marketing purposes. It soon became clear, however, that they could easily do this with low-cost, consumer-grade drones, or by working with a local service provider. The bigger opportunity for the team was to use drones to collect aerial data for measurement and analysis. This called for more advanced hardware and software, so they focused their evaluation on commercial drone solutions with more capabilities.
2. Data Quality (Absolute and Relative Accuracy)
Once they decided to collect data, not just imagery, accuracy became the next big factor. Like many other contractors interested in using drones, PCL Construction had two kinds of concerns regarding accuracy:
Absolute accuracy: If I’m using data from the drone to overlay with plans, will everything line up? How do I know when something appears out of place if it’s due to a georeferencing error, not an actual construction issue?
Relative accuracy: If I’m using data from the drone to perform measurements such as stockpile volume measurements; will I get accurate numbers compared to traditional measurements?
Bill and André decided they needed absolute accuracy to the tenth of a foot, and relative accuracy greater than 99 percent compared with traditional measurements. When necessary, they planned to use ground control points to georeference their aerial data, helping further improve accuracy.
3. Image Quality
Since drone photos would initially replace the monthly photographs taken by a manned helicopter, PCL Construction needed to ensure that drone image quality would be just as high, if not higher. Ultimately, they decided to compare a high-resolution oblique (side angle) photo from a manned aircraft with a high-resolution orthomosaic image from a drone, comprised of a series of nadir (straight down) photos. They evaluated orthomosaics from different drone solutions with three main criteria: resolution (ground sampling distance), sensor size of the camera, and image lens distortion.
4. Interoperability & Workflow
While evaluating options, Bill & André made sure to take note of the file types that different drone solutions could export. PCL relies heavily on Autodesk products including AutoCAD, Civil 3D, and ReMake, so it was vital that drone solutions worked seamlessly with their existing tools and workflows. Scalability was important too, given their goal to have drones on every job site within the organization.
5. Customer Support
At this point, PCL Construction had not yet used commercial drones on-site. This made it critical to receive excellent onboarding and ongoing customer support, in order to quickly get up to speed with the product and quickly resolve issues. Any solutions without warranties were also a no-go: replacement units had to be readily available if they ever had any issues with hardware on-site.
Bill, André, and their team ultimately decided to go with 3DR Site Scan as their drone solution. After a rigorous selection process, they found that Site Scan best met their criteria: it provided actionable data, high quality imagery, seamless workflow integrations with Autodesk, and excellent onboarding and customer support.
“What it came down to, for us, was the simplified workflow, the support we received from 3DR, and the scalability of the product. We also liked using both 3DR hardware and software, along with the integration that 3DR has with Autodesk in cloud processing.” — Bill Bennington, PCL
Getting to work
After deciding to go with Site Scan and start to integrate drones into their projects, Bill and André then started to identify people within their team to become certified FAA Part 107 pilots. There was no shortage of interest, and field engineers like Alyssa Odom — who we profiled here — studied with the Part 107 resources and passed the certification test. In no time, a number of PCL field engineers earned their Part 107 certification and were taking off with drones on various projects. Here are a couple examples:
Case Study 1: Crystal Lagoon
PCL Construction also used drones on their Crystal Lagoon project, which we went into detail on in a webinar and blog post, to make their QA/QC process more focused and efficient and provide more detailed progress updates to their client. This helped save significant surveying time on-site, cutting down the process from 1 week to just 1.5 days.
Case Study 2: UCF
Just one week after getting their drone, Bill and André brought Site Scan to a project for the University of Central Florida (UCF). They flew the site in under 12 minutes, and in a day they were able to process the aerial data into a point cloud of existing conditions and site lines. Ultimately, this helped them do a cut and fill analysis of a large stockpile far faster than their traditional workflows.
Next step: Scaling drone workflows
After successfully choosing a drone solution and proving the value of using drones on-site, PCL is now focused on getting drones on more projects and scaling the workflow across the organization. They’re planning to do this in three steps: first, establish a clear workflow within VDC teams for how aerial data will be processed and used. Next, they plan to ensure that field engineers and superintendents across the company to obtain Part 107 certification and be able to fly drones on site. Once they are able to define their workflows both in the field and the office, PCL will be able to scale their drone operations across the company.
While aerial data and cutting-edge technology are nothing new to a company like PCL, the steps needed to utilize drones as a tool in construction required research, education, and clear decision criteria. The key to the success of PCL’s drone program has been a commitment to a streamlined workflow that was scalable across multiple jobsites. As Bill said, “If you can demonstrate how you can improve an existing process with the use of a better, more efficient tool, every project will want one.”
“Waste… waste is the worst part about construction! If equipment is not running or people are waiting for information to get started, we lose money. Changing this is what motivated me to start a career in the construction business,” explained Colin See, when asked why he started to work with Bogh Engineering and use drones for construction.
Colin is currently studying construction management at the University of Redlands, and he interns at Bogh two days a week. When Mark Bogh, owner and 30 year industry veteran, purchased Site Scan, he immediately advised Colin to take the FAA Part 107 remote pilot test and get certified to fly drones on-site. “When we introduce a new technology at the company, I want one person to initially own it. Colin was the perfect fit. Eventually, my goal is to have everyone at the company instructed to use any tool we have.” Mark said.
For Bogh, the advantage of drone surveying is the speed and frequency of data collection. With traditional topographic surveying, they needed two days of lead time and 1–2 days in the field to collect the data. Additionally, they had to manually process the data in Civil 3D, pushing back the final deliverable so it was only ready a week after it was initially requested. “With Site Scan, I can tell Colin to fly a site in the morning and we have the data completely processed in the afternoon,” Mark said. Our success story goes in-depth into how Site Scan helped drive ROI for Bogh.
The first assignment for Colin
One morning in February 2017, Mark asked Colin to survey the Indio High School construction site before the company started grading. He arrived at the site at 9:00 am, and before flying the drone he measured ground control points (GCPs) so that the drone data could be georeferenced and used for cut-and-fill analysis. The GCPs had already been marked on the ground with an orange X in an earlier phase of the project, so all that Colin had to do was walk to the marked signs and measure the coordinates of each point with a total station [Image 1]. To walk throughout the 17 acre site and collect the coordinates of all 10 GCPs took Colin less than half an hour.
At this point, Colin informed the other construction crew members that he was about to fly the drone. He opened the hard case in the back of his truck, took out the Site Scan drone, started mounting the propellers, and inserted the charged battery. He then turned on the drone, the controller, and his iPad. In less than a minute, Colin connected and started planning the flight.
On this day, he was assigned to collect data for an orthomosaic view and a 3D point cloud, so decided to fly a crosshatch survey to do so. He opened the Site Scan Field app on his iPad and selected the crosshatch flight mode. In this mode, the drone flies two autonomous surveys perpendicular to each other, with the camera pointed at an oblique angle. This ensures the collection of the highest possible detail and oblique images for the 3D model. He used the iPad to select the area he wanted to fly with a couple of taps on the mission planning screen [Image 3]. From the preloaded Google Maps, he immediately recognized the site and had no problem identifying the area he needed to survey. The app automatically calculated the optimal flight path to cover the area Colin selected.
To start the flight, Colin positioned the drone 20 feet away from his truck, stepped back a couple of feet, and tapped “Fly Survey” on the iPad. The drone took off and follows the planned path. Some construction workers close to Colin followed the drone in the sky, but with graders and dozers running, almost no one else noticed the drone. Colin kept an eye on the drone and monitored flight progress on his iPad.
Given the large area and the fact that the drone needed to fly two perpendicular surveys, the app indicated that the flight needed 3 batteries to complete. Once the first battery ran too low, the Site Scan app notified Colin and the drone automatically flew back for the battery exchange. He went back to the truck, picked up a charged battery from the case, and returned to the drone, which had just safely landed.
Completing the survey
He swapped the batteries, powered the Site Scan drone up again, and tapped “Continue Survey” on the iPad. In less than a minute from when it landed, the drone was back in the air and continuing the survey as it left off. Colin repeated the same steps one more time before the drone finally completed the survey. In total, the scan took approximately 35 minutes to complete, and it captured 410 images.
After the final landing, Colin brought the drone back to the truck, unscrewed the propellers, and downloaded the images from the drone to the iPad. This was done with a simple tap on the “Download Images” button. The images were then wirelessly transferred to the iPad [Image 6] without using any SD cards, and the operation took about 10 minutes.
At this point, all of the necessary data has been collected and secured. Back in the office, Colin uploaded the data to the 3DR cloud for processing and finally handed the orthomosaics and 3D point clouds over to the staff engineer for analysis. “We are looking for an LTE card for the iPad, so that we can already upload the data while I’m still in the field. This would make it even quicker.”
It’s 10:15 am. Colin’s phone rings, and it’s Mark calling. “I have to survey a site in Beaumont before lunch. I’m heading over now. Do you want to join?”