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3DR Launches GCP App

Commercial drone pilots want to use ground control points as often as possible, because it helps improve the accuracy of their drone maps and models. But shooting GCPs can be time-consuming and expensive: it requires dedicated surveying equipment, hours of work in the field, and having to export and manually upload points to your drone software for georeferencing.

Today, that changes.

We’re thrilled to introduce 3DR GCP, a brand new Android app that’s integrated with the Trimble Catalyst platform. Now, with 3DR GCP and Trimble’s low-cost digital antenna, what used to be an expensive, time-consuming workflow for shooting accurate GCPs is now as simple as just the press of a button.


Capturing points with 3DR GCP and the Trimble Catalyst DA1 antenna

Trimble Catalyst is a software-defined GNSS receiver and on-demand positioning service for Android phones and tablets. Developed by Trimble, a global leader in geospatial positioning solutions, the service uses a small, lightweight, plug-and-play digital antenna to deliver high-quality satellite data to the 3DR GCP Android app. This makes it easy for 3DR customers to quickly capture ground control points and automatically transfer them to their corresponding projects in the Site Scan cloud for georeferencing and processing.

The app offers a range of precision levels, from a meter down to only a couple centimeters. Customers simply go on-site, plug the Catalyst DA1 antenna into their Android device, launch 3DR GCP, and capture ground control points at the level of accuracy they need.

3DR GCP is the perfect solution for engineering and construction firms looking to make their ground control point workflow faster and more streamlined. “It’s important that our drone data is accurate so we can rely on it for grading, volume reporting, and more,” said Caleb Stratton, Project Engineer at Bogh Engineering. “By making it simple to capture ground control points, 3DR GCP helps us improve accuracy across all of our projects.”

“3DR GCP provides our customers an end-to-end, cloud-based ground control point workflow from the field to the office,” said Chris Anderson, CEO, 3DR. “With this app, we’ve closed the loop on ground control points by making one simple, connected workflow from start to finish.”

“Trimble is excited for 3DR to join our ecosystem with the launch of 3DR GCP,” said Gareth Gibson, business development manager for Trimble Catalyst. “With this innovative ground control app, 3DR is making it easier than ever for their customers across the world to create accurate, reliable drone maps and models and better capture their projects.”

“With this innovative ground control app, 3DR is making it easier than ever for their customers across the world to create accurate, reliable drone maps and models and better capture their projects.”

— Gareth Gibson, Business Development Manager, Trimble

To learn more about Site Scan GCP, pricing, availability, and more, set up a demo or contact us at sales@3dr.com.

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The post 3DR Launches GCP App appeared first on 3DR Site Scan - Commercial Drone Platform.

Your LAANC Questions, Answered

LAANC—which is the FAA’s initiative to open up more controlled airspace to commercial drone operators and speed up the authorization approval process—is steadily expanding across the US. This is a major development for the commercial drone industry: when LAANC is fully rolled out, it will make up to 78,000 miles of airspace easily accessible, approximately 500 airports across the country.

That’s why we partnered with the FAA to host a webinar about LAANC, so commercial drone pilots like you can learn more about the initiative, why it matters, and when it’s coming to your area. We had a ton of great questions from attendees, so we’ve answered the most popular ones in this post to help you get up to speed.

Want to see the webinar for yourself? Watch the recording!

Q: When is LAANC coming to my area?

A: LAANC will be fully rolled out across the US by September 2018. Here’s a map to show the key rollout dates:

The FAA will publish the list of states and specific airports on the LAANC website as the capability is rolled out. On April 30th, for example, you will be able to see which specific airports in the Central South Region can offer LAANC.

Q: It appears that LAANC will eliminate the need to submit authorization and waiver requests. Is that correct?

A: It definitely will reduce the need to submit airspace authorization requests through the FAA Drone Zone, at least in areas where LAANC is available. For other areas, or waivers, you’ll still need use the Drone Zone and follow the standard approval process.

Q: Is a software platform such as 3DR Site Scan required to get approvals through LAANC?

A: There are currently only four approved LAANC UAS Service Suppliers: AirMap, Skyward, Project Wing, and Rockwell Collins, with more coming soon. You can find more information on LAANC service suppliers here.

3DR is able to offer LAANC to our customers because we’ve integrated our Site Scan application with AirMap. Pilots can use the Site Scan Field app to plan their flights and get digital authorization in a matter of minutes. 

Q: Is it possible to request authorization in “0” grids, or is this best done through Drone Zone?

A: You can request authorization in “0” grids using LAANC, as long as your operation is below 400 feet. If it’s above 400 feet, you need to apply for a waiver through the FAA Drone Zone.

Q: is LAANC specific to flying for construction, or can it be used to get authorization for videography or other purposes?

A: While the LAANC integration in Site Scan is largely used by our customers in construction and engineering, that’s not all that LAANC is limited to. Any commercial drone operator can fully use and benefit from LAANC—not just those in construction.

Q: How long does it typically take for authorization up to 400 feet within controlled airspace?

A: Authorizations within any allowable UASFM altitudes can be, and often are, processed in near real time. In fact, out of the 3,500 authorizations processed through LAANC, over 90% of them were done in near real-time.

Q: Can you request an authorization for a specific date and time through LAANC, or can you only do it on-site when you want to fly?

A: You’re free to do either! You can submit a request for airspace authorization through LAANC up to 90 days in advance, which is a big help when planning your flights and making sure you’re able to fly. Or, if you have to get on-site to fly at the last minute, fast approvals through LAANC can make that possible.

Q: How can I reach out to the FAA directly with specific questions?

A: If you have a question about LAANC or anything else that relates to FAA drone regulation, please contact the FAA at UAShelp@faa.gov or call 844-FLY-MY-UA.

Q: Where can I find a recording of the 3DR + FAA webinar about LAANC?

A: Right here. Enjoy!

The post Your LAANC Questions, Answered appeared first on 3DR Site Scan - Commercial Drone Platform.

How PCL Construction Built a Successful Drone Program

Two years ago, the Orlando, Florida division of PCL Construction wasn’t flying drones on any of their projects. Their virtual construction team set out to change that. “We needed to capture our projects in detail,” said André Tousignant, Virtual Construction Manager at PCL. “We knew that drones could help.”

André and his colleague Bill Bennington built their drone program from the ground up in Orlando, capturing aerial data on a number of their projects. Fast forward to today, and PCL Construction has expanded their drone program beyond just Orlando to have a team of 26 pilots flying drones in multiple districts across North America, with nearly 50 people using their drone data on a daily basis. It’s had a big impact, helping PCL better collaborate between the office and the field, avoid costly disputes and mistakes, and keep projects on schedule.

We spoke with André to dive deeper into why they started looking for a drone solution, how he got the rest of his team actively using drone data, and how it’s helped on their projects so far.



Hugh: What were the original pain points you faced that made you and your team look for a drone solution? Why did you originally want to bring a drone in-house?

André: On construction projects, documentation is key. You can never have enough photos. We needed to capture our projects in detail, and we’ve used laser scanners and other ways of taking pictures, but we started looking for a drone solution so we can gather information on the whole site.

We quickly realized that a cloud-based drone platform could help us do more than just turn drone photos into orthomosaics and 3D models: they’re enterprise-ready tools that we could use to share this data with all of our teams. That sort of opportunity is what really sold us on bringing a drone solution in-house. Really, if you compare the cost to what you actually get—and the speed you can get it—it’s an easy decision.

Hugh: What are some of the biggest ‘wins’ you’ve had using your drone data? What are some that you didn’t expect?

André: There’s been a few! A recent one was on a large commercial structure that we’re building. One of the first times we flew the site, we were just starting to excavate some of our foundations. As soon as we processed our flight into an orthomosaic, we overlaid our design file onto the map to spot the difference between design and reality. We immediately realized the excavation was probably about 3 feet off, so we moved quickly and fixed it before it became an issue.

Digital elevation model viewer with design file overlay

The second example is something that we didn’t originally expect when starting to use our drone. A question arose on one of our projects about the amount of de-watering that had been installed. It wasn’t clear how many PVC pipes were actually placed, compared to the initial plan.

Often photo documentation of this type of scope is sparse and it would prove difficult to know the right answer. But thankfully, on this project, we had the drone imagery. We used Site Scan to count every 2-inch diameter pipe to see exactly how many were there, and it helped us resolve a potentially costly dispute.

What it comes down to is that you can’t argue with the data. As soon as we review and share the documentation captured by the drone, it puts these types of issues to bed immediately.

“What it comes down to is that you can’t argue with the data. As soon as we review and share the documentation captured by the drone, it puts these types of issues to bed immediately.”

Hugh: You led scaling PCL’s drone operations from a single user license to over 100 users across different projects and teams. How did you do that successfully? Who is using the data today?

André: Here’s the first thing we did: show people what they can actually do with drone data, and how easy the workflow is. It sounds simple, but it’s a critical thing to do.

I brought together project teams—project managers, project engineers, superintendents, and more—and showed them an example of how drone imagery is being used on other projects. Then, I showed them the different use cases and simple tools that are available to them, such as overlaying a PDF design file onto an orthomosaic, comparing flights, performing volume and area measurements, and more. Their eyes lit up, and the lightbulb went off. They said things like, “Hey, this is something we can use! We can do measurements. We can do a cross-section of the point cloud and see the elevation. We can share it with our teams.”

Comparing jobsite changes over time

With this initial positive feedback, we worked to standardize drone operations on all of our projects. For example, we’re expanding the number of drone pilots to more teams. A key part of this, when scaling into the enterprise, is maintaining consistency. We ensure that we’re effective recordkeepers and can plan flights properly. We have digital checklists that our pilots use every time before taking off, to ensure they fly safely and effectively. Also, all of our flights are logged in Site Scan, so it’s easy if someone else sets up a flight and completes it, then I can go out and re-fly that flight quickly. This ensures we have consistent flights that cover the same area, capturing the right overlap, and getting an expected result out of the [photogrammetry] processing.

Our team uses the drone data in a variety of ways. For example, it’s become an important part of coordination meetings, where our team talks through site logistics, reviews progress, plan work with subs, and more. They’re pulling that information up in Site Scan, in the browser, and reviewing it. It’s important to note that this data is usually from the previous day, which is great considering how quickly these sites can change.

“[Drone data] has become an important part of coordination meetings, where our team talks through site logistics, reviews progress, plan work with subs, and more.”

In addition to our project teams, we’re also give access to some of our owners so they can see progress on the job and see how it’s changing. We also give access to some consultants on other teams, as they may be interested in learning different things than we are.

Hugh: You work with new technologies everyday, not just drones. What new construction technologies are you excited about?

André: I’m excited about a few things. First, the impact of neural network software to further process and document models from our flights. I think that will have a huge impact.

I’m a fan of tech that can touch every project in a significant way. For example, look at what StructionSite has done. It makes it easy for us to document our jobs and manage the photos we take. By integrating StructionSite with other storage apps, we’re simplifying how we store and find images.

Overall, I’m glad to see more horizontal integrations between platforms. This helps us avoid having data silos, and ensures that our field staff can get the information they need, whenever they need it.

“Overall, I’m glad to see more horizontal integrations between platforms. This helps us avoid having data silos, and ensures that our field staff can get the information they need, whenever they need it.”

Hugh: You and your team at PCL have built a great drone program: you’re getting a ton of value out of the data and have scaled drone operations to more teams and locations. Now that you have this foundation, where do you want to take your drone operations next? What are you excited about what it comes to the future of drone technology?

André: First, I’m excited about where things are going with [Site Scan’s] BIM 360 integration. We’re big users of BIM 360 Field and Glue here at PCL—almost every single one of our projects uses BIM 360 Field. Site Scan’s integration with BIM 360 is exciting for a few reasons: it helps us overlay up-to-date design files onto our orthomosaics, create Issues and RFI’s to solve problems in the field, and it makes it easy for us to bring drone data into our design models, and not just look at them in 2D.

On a similar note, I’m excited about how easy 3D modelling has become. When the 3D mesh viewer was released, for example, our team couldn’t believe the type of model that could be created from a 10-minute drone flight. The detail is incredible. You can read our logo on the trucks!

André and his team getting ready to fly

We’re also starting to explore new use cases for drones, like making it more efficient to do pre-pour documentation of conduits and post-tensioning, among other things. In some of the initial experiments we’ve done with a drone, we’ve turned an hour of documentation work in the field down to just 15 minutes, and improved our processing times as well.

Also, we’re excited to see where the FAA regulation goes. For example, the evolution of LAANC is really exciting, because it’s opening up airspace and making it easier to fly in areas that took longer to get approval in before.

Lastly, and importantly, I’m excited about what’s possible within PCL. Every day, we on the VDC team hear about a teammate who is using the drone data in a different way. This is exactly what we want when introducing a new technology. There’s nothing more exciting than seeing project teams use the data in a way that we never intended, and I’m excited to see where we take things next.

The post How PCL Construction Built a Successful Drone Program appeared first on 3DR Site Scan - Commercial Drone Platform.

5 Ways Drones Can Improve Construction Projects

No longer a futuristic vision, drones are now common on construction sites. Today, the business case for using drones in construction is clearer than it was even two years ago, and companies are already benefiting from their many uses. Here are 5 ways drones can improve your next construction project.

1. Prevent costly mistakes

Drones can be equipped with cameras, geo-location sensors, infrared sensors, and more to capture precise details about the environmental and physical site prior to and during construction. The high-resolution images captured by a drone are then turned into accurate 2D orthophotos and 3D models, creating a rich digital representation of your jobsite. Then, drone data platforms like 3DR Site Scan make it easy to overlay design files onto drone maps, enabling you to pinpoint constructability challenges in pre-construction spot mistakes, and measure progress during construction.

2. Provide Better Project Updates

Owners and other stakeholders understandably demand progress updates on a regular basis. This can be a pain for you, if you have to walk the site or send someone to take photos. Drones can make this aspect of the job both a painless experience for you, and a better experience for them.

When it comes to project updates, “drones can provide instant ROI,” says Josh Cheney, Industry Manager of Construction Technology at Autodesk. “Drones can be operated autonomously, on your own schedule.” Scheduling a regular flyover is simple and inexpensive, and provides rich data to share with project owners.

3. Improve safety

The leading cause of private sector worker fatalities on the construction site is falls, representing nearly 39% of all deaths. Drones can be used to keep workers’ feet planted firmly on the ground when they might otherwise have to climb to take manual measurements or engage in other activities that can be replaced with a drone.

4. Improve Collaboration

“Collaboration is key,” says Nico Bonnafoux, Senior Customer Success Architect at 3DR. “You save money if you get everyone moving in a unified direction.” Drones improve collaboration by collecting data on-site and distributing it through a platform like BIM 360. Virtual design teams, engineers, superintendents, owners, and contractors can then access aerial views and related data from their iPads and other devices. This enables everyone to see where things were yesterday, compare progress over time, and catch any discrepancies before they become serious problems.

“Collaboration is key. You save money if you get everyone moving in a unified direction.”

— Nico Bonnafoux, Senior Customer Success Architect, 3DR

5. Mitigate Risk

Contractors carry significant risk on every project. From being overbilled on one side, to being underpaid on the other, to mistakes, rework, missed deadlines, and legal challenges, few industries provide as many opportunities to lose money.

Data from drones can help mitigate many of these risks by identifying problems before they arise, providing accurate data regarding disputes, and documenting the process against legal challenges.

“For example,” says Bonnafoux, “one of our customers used their drone data to help win a dispute with a subcontractor who was significantly overcharging them. By having accurate daily site documentation, our customer quickly resolved the dispute and saved over $100,000 without having to go to court.”

Once a vision of the future, drones are here now, and their use in construction industry is only going to grow.



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The post 5 Ways Drones Can Improve Construction Projects appeared first on 3DR Site Scan - Commercial Drone Platform.

View 3D Meshes in Site Scan (and VR!)

As drones continue to take off in construction, more teams are getting used to collecting drone imagery and turning it into digital models of their jobsite. While it’s easy to view orthomosaics and point clouds in a platform like Site Scan, innovative construction teams want to go a step further and view rich 3D meshes directly in the browser, so they can have (and easily share) a high-resolution model of their project.

That’s why we’re excited to share that we’ve built a 3D mesh viewer directly into Site Scan Manager, our cloud-based web application. With processing powered by Autodesk ReCap and Pix4D, the industry leading 3D photogrammetry engines, you can view richer, more detailed models in Site Scan compared to any other drone platform. Also, through our enterprise platform, you can easily share this viewer with clients, teammates, and anyone else.

This capability enables construction teams in a variety of ways. For example, you may want to be able to see a detailed model of your site when planning work and sharing status updates in weekly team meetings. Or, perhaps your clients and other external stakeholders are looking for better visibility into your construction progress, and require frequent, detailed status updates no matter where they’re based. A 3D mesh viewer makes all of these use cases—and much more—easier than ever.

View your models in virtual reality, no export necessary

But that’s not all: not only can you view a 3D mesh in the browser, but you can use Site Scan to send it to your virtual reality device with the press of a button. No need to export your model to another platform: just connect your headset (you can start with an inexpensive Google Cardboard), turn on VR mode in the mesh viewer, and jump into a completely immersive experience.

Here’s a short video to show the complete workflow in action:

Want to learn more? Contact us to schedule a discovery call with one of our drone technology specialists and get a free Site Scan demo.

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