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How Drones Helped Preserve Important Cultural Artifacts on this Remote Micronesian Island

Scientists unanimously agree that climate change is real and that its impacts are felt globally. One of the most obvious effects of climate change is sea level rise which has the potential to destroy coastal sites of cultural and historic significance in many different places around the world.

While no one can single-handedly reverse the effects of climate change and sea level rise, efforts are being made to preserve existing land, buildings, and cultural heritage sites that are at risk. Drones can play—and are playing—a big role in these efforts. Thanks to their mapping and land assessment capabilities, new methods of preservation have been taking place through the application of drone use and photogrammetry.

Kosrae

The island of Kosrae, located in the Federated States of Micronesia, offers some interesting history and a largely unspoiled terrain. Kosrae, according to archaeological evidence, was settled at least by the early first millennium A.D. Micronesian ruins exist throughout Kosrae–an island that’s particularly rich in ancient history, World War II history, and even boasts a sunken pirate ship off its shores, popular with visiting divers. Kosrae is also affected by rising sea levels, and efforts are being made to help preserve the island’s most valuable artifacts.

 

Kosrae Japanese radio tower

Ruins on the coast of Kosrae

Drones and the Photogrammetric Documentation of Kosraean Artifacts

Dace Campbell is an architect with thirty years in the design and construction industry who has over twenty-five years of applied research experience in virtual and augmented reality. He’s also a Customer Success Manager at Autodesk–a company that grants its employees a generous six-week sabbatical every four years. Some folks spend their sabbatical relaxing on remote tropical islands in far-away places, while others jet off on sightseeing adventures, and some do research or work on personal projects. Dace decided to do a little of all three when he embarked on a mission to help Kosrae’s Historic Preservation Office (KHPO) in the photogrammetric documentation of artifacts.

“As an architect, I was thinking of a philanthropic architecture project that I could work on with my family,” Dace says. “Habitat for Humanity and different church groups were doing all sorts of builds in the third world, so that’s where I started. I struggled to find something that was family-friendly and architectural. It was only when the U.S. pulled out of the Paris Climate agreement that I realized I wanted to pursue a project addressing sustainability. That’s how I arrived at architectural and cultural historic preservation of artifacts threatened by climate change.”

 

Menke ruins

Menke Ruins on Kosrae

 

By partnering with local leaders, Dace spent one month with his family living on Kosrae as part of his Autodesk 2018 sabbatical. In order to bring new vantage points to Kosrae land owners as well as the staff at KHPO, Dace wanted to use drones to give locals a clear view of their existing artifacts. Using the 3DR Site Scan drone platform, along with various Autodesk programs and tools including ReCap™ and 3ds Max® among others, he used photogrammetry and virtual reality to execute his work.

To learn how all these tools and technologies worked together, Dace began with an experiment in his own Seattle backyard which he digitized using photogrammetry. By simulating a site that could potentially be affected by flooding due to rising sea level, faking in things like water and an ancient Kosraean wooden dwelling, he was able to create an augmented reality experience.

“To begin, and this is where Site Scan comes into play, I was just collecting images. So, I did a lot of aerial photogrammetry with an iPad and a Phantom 4 Pro, and essentially did a lot of mission planning using Site Scan, flew a lot of flights, and took a lot of pictures.”

 

Dace's yard

Dace’s AR simulation of a Kosraen structure in his Seattle yard

 

Preserving the Lelu Ruins – a UNESCO World Heritage Nominated Site

Dace explains that his ideal project sites would meet several criteria: “they needed to be close to sea level, of cultural and historic significance on a global scale, and visible enough to support aerial photography.” The sites he ultimately identified were a WWII Japanese Radio Tower, the Menke Ruins, and the Lelu Ruins. Lelu was the primary draw here, as it’s currently being considered for World Heritage status by UNESCO. The ruins themselves are located on Kosrae’s satellite island of Lelu which is a municipality of the entire state of Kosrae. Lelu once contained complex hierarchical societies on Kosrae prior to European contact, and it’s composed of Megalithic stone walls built of basalt and coral.

Once Dace and his team on Kosrae cleared large areas of vegetation covering Lelu in order to gain more visibility, they were able to access the ruins for clearer aerial drone footage using Site Scan’s automated survey flight mode.  Dace was then able to label and document his work in order to share it with KHPO and the locals through an immersive virtual reality experience.

Lelu Ruins in Kosrae

The Lelu Ruins, another Kosraen historical site surveyed by Dace

Drones Play a Vital Role in Preserving Artifacts around the World

Thanks to the efforts of Dace and the KHPO team, Kosraeans can now use VR and AR to help come up with mitigation strategies to preserve valuable artifacts on the island. “Administrators, staff anthropologists, field staff, and land owners all had great things to say about photogrammetry and VR,” Dace says. “They were quite engaged by having that firsthand experience.”

Drone functions in the photogrammetry space—especially when paired with platforms like Site Scan—have virtually limitless possibilities. It’s long been possible to perform terrestrial photogrammetry without a drone and, on the other hand, drones can be used on their own to take aerial photos without performing photogrammetry to construct 3D digital models. By combining high-resolution drone photos with photogrammetry workflows, however, Dace was able to capture Kosrae in an entirely new way.

While the average user might not be jetting off to remote islands in Micronesia to help with UNESCO World Heritage missions, projects like the one on Kosrae are becoming more and more common. It’s now easier than ever for non-professionals to use drone platforms and virtual reality to experience places as if they were there. Drones certainly are playing a vital role in the preservation of important artifacts–a positive trend that’s on the rise, with the potential to make a lasting difference across the globe.

The post How Drones Helped Preserve Important Cultural Artifacts on this Remote Micronesian Island appeared first on 3DR.

Drone Software, Re-Imagined: Meet the All New Site Scan

Today is a big day for 3DR customers: we’ve launched an all new Site Scan that’s simpler, faster, and packed with new features.

 

We’ve been working side-by-side with our customers to look for ways to improve our cloud-based web app, Site Scan. By doing so, we started to see some patterns and common needs across our customer base in construction, engineering, mining, and other sectors: they wanted to use Site Scan in new and interesting ways, so we set out to re-imagine the platform to help our customers accomplish their goals and work better, every day.

The new Site Scan is built for teams, offers a simple and more flexible interface, and supercharges your workflow with a ton of new features.

Built for teams

We’ve learned that now, more than ever, our customers are looking to make their drone data accessible and useful across their entire organization—not just their own part of it. In construction, for example, drone data was long used mostly just by virtual construction teams, not by the project managers or the superintendents on-site every day. That’s no longer the case: project teams are now reviewing drone maps and models on a near-daily basis, like at their morning meetings to plan the day’s work.

With this in mind, it became clear that our customers needed a platform that was built for teams: one that makes it easier than ever to manage permissions and share drone data across projects and organizations. With the new Site Scan, now they can: it makes it easier than ever to add new team members to your projects, share data with key stakeholders, and control permissions with admin, full-access, and read-only access. 

Simple, flexible interface

We’re constantly improving Site Scan and adding new features for a diverse, growing customer base across construction, engineering, mining, and more. That’s why we built the new Site Scan in a way that’s simpler and more flexible: the sidebar is your central resource for managing flights and projects, adding new team members, and managing permissions.

The toolbar is your all-in-one workspace for analyzing your drone data, making it easy for you to view your maps, models, and project timelines, along with a variety of data layers, design file overlays, and exporting options. With this improved design, Site Scan is able to grow and evolve as we continue to add new features. 

Breakdown of the new user interface in Site Scan (click to expand!)

Brand new features

To go with the improved design, we’ve also added a few great new features to Site Scan, all of which are focused on making it easier for you to get the insights you need, faster.

Ortho and point cloud photo inspection

Curious about a specific point on your orthomosaic or point cloud? Now, you can use the new Inspect Photo tool to identify that point, and Site Scan will show you every image that it appears in. This is a powerful way to quickly see the actual photos from any point in your project.

Generate contours based off the digital terrain model

Now, you can create rich bare earth models with your Site Scan data, and use your digital terrain model (DTM) to generate contours.

Faster processing

We’ve made enhancements to our processing engine and now your Site Scan data processes faster than ever, ensuring that you get the data you need, when you need it.

Hot keys for measurements

Make measurements, faster. We’ve added hotkeys to our set of measurement tools. Now, you can press “d” for distance measurements, “v” for volume, “m” to set markers, “c” to count objects, and “i” to inspect photos in detail.

We’re thrilled about how Site Scan has evolved over the years, and we’re even more excited to see how our community will put this brand new tool to work. If you’re interested in learning more about Site Scan and how it can help your business, set up a 15-minute consultation with us—we’re here to help!

The post Drone Software, Re-Imagined: Meet the All New Site Scan appeared first on 3DR Site Scan - Commercial Drone Platform.

Drone software, re-imagined: meet the all new Site Scan

Today’s a big day for 3DR customers: we’ve released an all new Site Scan that’s simpler, faster, and packed with new features.

We’ve been working side-by-side with our customers to look for ways to improve our cloud-based web app, Site Scan. By doing so, we started to see some patterns and common needs across our customer base in construction, engineering, and mining: they wanted to use Site Scan in new and interesting ways, so we set out to re-imagine the platform to help our customers accomplish their goals and work better.

The new Site Scan is built for teams, offers a simple and more flexible interface, and has a ton of new features.


Want to see the new Site Scan in action?

Watch the announcement webinar to see a full demo!


Built for teams

Now, more than ever, our customers are looking to make their drone data accessible and useful across their entire organization—not just their own part of it. In construction, for example, drone data was long used mostly just by virtual construction teams, not by the project managers or the superintendents on-site every day. That’s no longer the case: project teams are now reviewing drone maps and models on a near-daily basis, like at their morning meetings to plan the day’s work.

With this in mind, it became clear that our customers needed a platform that was built for teams: one that makes it easier than ever to manage access and share drone data across projects and organizations. In the new Site Scan—with its improved interface for inviting new users, controlling project permissions and more—that’s easier than ever.

Simple, flexible interface

We’re constantly improving Site Scan and adding new features for a diverse, growing customer base across different industries. That’s why we built the new Site Scan in a way that’s simpler and more flexible, with a sidebar, toolbar, full-width viewer, and a right sidebar for photo inspections. See the breakdown below:

 

The sidebar is your central resource for managing flights and projects, adding new team members, and managing permissions. The toolbar is your all-in-one workspace for analyzing your drone data, making it easy for you to view your maps, models, and project timelines, along with a variety of data layers, design file overlays, and exporting options. With this design, Site Scan is built to grow and evolve with all of the new features that we’re building in the future.

Brand new features

Speaking of features, we’ve also added a few new capabilities in Site Scan, all of which are geared around making it faster and easier for you to to get the information you need. Here’s just some of what’s new:

Ortho and point cloud photo inspection

Curious about a specific point on your orthomosaic or point cloud? Now, you can use the new Inspect Photo tool to identify that point, and Site Scan will show you every image that it appears in.

Generate contours based off the digital terrain model

Now, you can create rich bare earth models with your Site Scan data, and use your digital terrain model (DTM) to generate contours.

Faster processing

We’ve made enhancements to our processing engine and now your Site Scan data processes faster than ever, ensuring that you get the data you need, when you need it.

Hot keys for measurements

Make measurements, faster. We’ve added hotkeys to our set of measurement 

tools. Now, you can press “d” for distance measurements, “v” for volume, “m” to set markers, “c” to count objects, and “i” to inspect photos in detail.

We’re thrilled about how Site Scan has evolved over the years, and we’re even more excited to see how our community will put this brand new tool to work. If you’re interested in learning more about Site Scan and how it can help your business, watch our announcement webinar set up a 15-minute consultation with us—we’re here to help.

The post Drone software, re-imagined: meet the all new Site Scan appeared first on 3DR.

Why Construction Robots Should Be More Like Sprinklers

When I was kid, I spent my summers with my grandfather, Fred Hauser, a Swiss immigrant engineer living in Los Angeles. Back in the 1930s, he had worked in Hollywood, helping create the audio tape technology for the “talkies”. But by the time I knew him he was an inventor, tinkering in his garage workshop.

His most successful invention was a big one: the automatic sprinkler, which is basically a sprinkler with a clockwork timer attached to it (yes, that’s exactly what you might expect a Swiss engineer in Los Angeles, where the new bungalow owners “greened the desert” with their lawns, to invent: a sprinkler + clock).

Original patents for the automatic sprinkler by my grandfather, Fred Hauser

I learned a lot from him — how to do mechanical drawing, how to use a metal lathe, how to turn ideas into prototypes — but most importantly I learned that a great automatic tool was just that: automatic. Once installed, the sprinklers could be forgotten: they just did their job at the appointed time, and your lawn stayed green.

You may not think of an automatic sprinkler as a robot, but it is: it combines sensing, intelligence and actuation (as does a dishwasher or washing machine, which are also unheralded robots). Today’s sprinklers are connected to the internet, collect data, decide when to water based on weather, and, best of all, just work.

Fast forward more decades than I care to admit, and now, probably not coincidentally, I run a robotics company. 3DR, which I co-founded in 2012, helped pioneer the modern drone industry and, equally importantly, is today putting drones to work gathering data and making it useful. Our inspiration is the same as my grandfather’s: make advanced technology simple to do a needed job well. Great tools should just work—at the end of the day, there’s no reason for an automatic scanning drone to be harder to use than an automatic sprinkler.

Great tools should just work—at the end of the day, there’s no reason for an automatic scanning drone to be harder to use than an automatic sprinkler.

We’re just one part of the biggest movement to come to the AEC industry since CAD. The opportunity to digitize the physical world — scanning sites to create a “digital twin” —  allows us to finally follow that maxim that “you can only manage what you can measure”. This includes everything from drones to indoor scanners such as Matterport, total station laser measurement, RTK GPS, and AI cameras. And this, in turn, is part of an even bigger trend of all industries to digitize what they do, from manufacturing to transportation.

We stand on the shoulders of giants: smartphones and wireless data networks, AI, the cloud, extraordinary sensors from cameras to GPS, even the Internet itself. A decade ago, what we do would be impossible or impossibly expensive. Today, there’s an app for that.

But it’s all still harder than sprinklers. Between regulatory requirements for trained FAA-certified operators to the usual compatibility issues between software platforms, drones are still making their way onto construction sites. The same could be said for total stations a quarter-century ago, however, and now they’re ubiquitous. Drones may take five years, even ten years to get there. But the adoption curve is getting faster, thanks to the all the complimentary technologies, such as mobile and BIM, that are pushing into the AEC industry at the same time.

Capturing aerial data on-site with PCL Construction

Someday soon, the first worker on a construction site will go through their morning routine of opening the gate, unlocking the trailer, starting the generator and, yes, pressing the red button on the drone box. That box will be dusty, dented, unloved — just like any other piece of standard construction equipment, as unremarkable as it is essential. Nobody will notice as it flies overhead throughout the day, just as they don’t notice the crane overhead. At the end of the day, another worker will ensure that its batteries are recharging and close the box for the night.

The opportunity to digitize the physical world — scanning sites to create a digital twin —  allows us to finally follow that maxim that “you can only manage what you can measure”.

What they will notice, however, is that the BIM model of the job really is a “digital twin”. Always accurately showing the latest work, always evolving, increasingly relied-upon. The networks of the Internet are now something we take as much for granted as we do the networks of the electric power grid, but the data that flows over them continues to marvel. The same is coming to the construction industry: sensors that fade into the background, but data that shines brighter and brighter.

Now imagine drones doing the same in farms or corporate campuses or around oil refineries. Boxes with copters inside and solar cells outside to recharge their batteries. Like the irrigation systems, at some point in the day they wake up, emerge from the boxes, and do their thing: site surveying, crop mapping, security patrols, whatever. When they’re done, they return automatically to their boxes, the lids close, and they sleep until they do it all again the next day. They’re like flying security cameras or satellites: you don’t care how they work, as long as you get the data.

We’ve come a long way from thinking of drones as weapons, sci-fi movies or even headlines. But in the prosaic applications of advanced technologies lie their real impact. Once drones are as ubiquitous and essential as sprinklers, we all will have won.

The post Why Construction Robots Should Be More Like Sprinklers appeared first on 3DR Site Scan - Commercial Drone Platform.

Drones are Breaking Ground in Bridge Inspection

There are critical infrastructure needs across North America, especially when it comes to bridges. In the U.S., for example, over 54,000 U.S. bridges are structurally deficient, which is nearly 9% of all bridges across the country. Not only that, but assessing the current state of bridge infrastructure requires an increasing amount of time and resources—and there are no shortage of safety concerns.

Thankfully, new technologies are here to help. Drones and non-destructive testing devices, for example, are part of a variety of tools are that are shaping the future of bridge inspection and rehabilitation, helping improve project safety, reduce costs, and create more efficient and sustainable methods.

Building better with drone data

Long before inspection and maintenance, drone data platforms like 3DR Site Scan are being used at the very beginning of infrastructure projects to improve the way bridges are built in the first place. For example, see how drone data helped the Arizona DOT capture up-to-date existing conditions of their aging Pinto Creek bridge, and design a new bridge to replace it.

Designing a new bridge with drone data

Creating 2D maps and 3D models with drones has also been used to better document important utilities—like rebar and post-tensioned cables—before pouring concrete. This type of detailed documentation at key milestones can make a big difference on large-scale concrete construction projects, helping identify and address issues that may otherwise have been missed.

How drones are used for bridge inspection

Although surveying, planning, and quality control are common uses for drones in construction, they’re also increasingly being used post-build in the inspection process. As an American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials study found, 35 state DOTs are using drones for a variety of purposes, with of them 20 using drones daily and another 15 testing drones and determining how they can best put them to work.

Drones are capable of collecting far more detailed inspection data compared to snoopers and other more traditional inspection equipment. Not only that, but drones can collect this data without interfering with traffic, which is a big cost-saver: the Michigan DOT found that shutting down a four-lane, two-way highway bridge in a metropolitan area costs approximately $14,600 during the 10 hour period it typically takes to do a bridge inspection.

AASHTO did another study in 2016, comparing the price and labor needed to perform bridge inspections manually compared with a drone-based workflow. They found that not only did manual inspection required twice as many people, it also cost upwards of 18x more than using drones. That’s why, for DOTs, adopting drones is a no-brainer: they can perform inspections more frequently, cost-effectively, safely, and capture more information than ever before.

From gathering the initial data via still and infrared images, to being equipped with non-destructive testing devices for in-depth analysis, drones can be used for bridge inspection in a variety of ways. They make it easy to collect high-definition images and visual data from traditionally hard-to-reach areas, such as the underside of bridges and along the beams and girders. They also dramatically reduce cost and safety risks associated with traditional bridge inspection by eliminating the use of heavy machinery.

Inspecting the bottom of the Foresthill Bridge—the highest bridge by deck height in California—up close and personal

The 3DR Site Scan platform, for example, allows you to capture high-resolution images from manual drone flights, or target and outline an area to capture oblique imagery from four directions. It also has the capabilities to re-fly previous flight patterns, so you can gather images from the same area and compare them at different time intervals to view deterioration and changes in infrastructure.

Combining non-destructive testing equipment with drones

While most inspection drones are currently equipped with high-resolution RGB and thermal cameras, that’s just the beginning: innovative firms such as Giatec Scientific are equipping drones with their non-destructive testing equipment, such as the iCOR device. The iCOR is used to detect corrosion in reinforced concrete structures, and map corrosion potential and rate. What makes the iCOR unique—and gives it the ability to be used in combination with drones—is that it can perform tests in seconds and without the need for a physical connection to the rebar.

Using the data gathered with drones, in combination with corrosion assessment from tools like iCOR, contractors and inspectors can get an all-around, in-depth look at the state of bridges and concrete infrastructure. It also keeps workers out of harm’s way, amounts to considerable cost savings, and most importantly, it’s helping our state DOTs, engineers, and contractors do a critical job: repairing and replacing aging infrastructure across the country.

The post Drones are Breaking Ground in Bridge Inspection appeared first on 3DR Site Scan - Commercial Drone Platform.

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