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Anderson Engineering, Inc. 

Drone Technology Changes Landscape Surveying

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“Drone technology has revolutionized surveying for land development in ways that would have been impossible ten years ago,” says Trevor Byrd, survey party chief and UAV pilot with Anderson Engineering.

Before drones came along, surveying companies used standard cameras or phone cameras to take photos of construction sites. “The construction companies hire us to go out and get the imagery they need,” says Byrd. “We don’t only get aerial imagery; we also collect complete maps that will give them a more complete picture of the entire site, rather than just a picture from an oblique angle. This is something that regular cameras and phone cameras just can’t do.” 

Accountability to financial institutions

During construction projects, financial institutions require proof of progress. With drones surveyors can capture a high-resolution image of the entire job site. “The detail pops more and you can narrow down exactly what’s on that site,” says Byrd. “For instance, if you have a small water valve sticking out of the ground on a construction site, we can get so close that you can read the “W” on the valve.”

“Financial institutions like to keep tabs on the progress of the construction sites they’re backing. They want to make sure that each stage of the project is being completed on time,” Byrd says. “When the steel is erected, my imagery will have a date and time stamp on it. That reassures those financial institutions that the project is on track to be completed at the right time.” 

Liability protection

“Many times, before a construction project starts, we need to get preexisting conditions photos and create a map of that,” says Byrd. “This way, after completion of the project we can point to that map and show that none of the surrounding area was damaged or disrupted and no one was caused any financial loss.”

Things can be missed in pre-construction. “Sometimes an issue comes up where maybe a utility locator forgot to mark a gas line and the line is hit during construction,” says Byrd. “That pre-construction imagery we took with drones will show exactly what was there and who is responsible for the mistake.” This allows the parties involved to avoid costly delays and litigation. 

Topography of a construction site

Drone surveying also allows for high-resolution 3D models and extraction of topography data for a particular site. This not only saves time and is more accurate, but also mitigates the risk of injury to employees. “Before, you would have to send a person up a big pile of rocks or a big pile of debris to collect that data. And the data itself is very dense. Where we used to have a point every two or three feet, now we’re getting data that is at 2 centimeter accuracy,” says Byrd. 

Why it makes sense to use drones

“A drone can take multiple photos of the entire site, where a smaller camera can only take photos of one area at a time. These photos have to be stitched together and often times, things are missed,” says Byrd. “With smaller cameras the picture is just never complete.”

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