• Planning, and more planning – Before doing remote data collec- tion, meet with design engineers to coordinate on the survey plan. Be sure to ask hard questions about factors within the project that could possibly change over time. With an understanding of these variables, the survey can ensure that the correct data is collected to address changes in project scope or questions that may arise about feasibility. • Implement survey control – Drone-based data collection for engi- neering is not for the hobbyist drone pilot. The process is much more complex than simply putting a drone in the sky and taking pictures. Licensed surveyors must work hand-in-hand with certified UAV pilots trained in data collection to ensure accuracy. • Review data before leaving the job site – There are a lot of mov- ing parts involved in UAV-based data collection. You need to make sure the hardware works properly and that GPS is locked to provide accurate results. It's vital that while still in the field, you double check the data collected. If you wait to review the data back at the office, you may have to retrace your steps and resurvey the site, adding cost and time to the project. • Consider other applications of sensors and drones to support operations – High-def cameras and lidar sensors are not the only types of devices that can be attached to drones. Consider how you may be able to leverage other sensors for hyperspectral or multispectral imag- ing to more specifically identify vegetation species or explore surface contamination, or thermal imaging to explore conditions of rooftops to proactively address areas where leaks may occur. Furthermore, these thermal images of the building exteriors can highlight energy loss, and can contribute to a comprehensive energy efficiency plan. Civil and structural engineers are just in the early stages of discovering the many ways drones benefit their operations. While some hurdles still exist – particularly concerning FAA line of site restrictions and security concerns with UAVs from foreign manufacturers – these should not stop the engineering community from exploring new applications for UAV-based data collection. With strong practices in place; collabora- tion between design engineers, surveyors and drone pilots skilled in data collection; and an eye toward trying new approaches, the sky's the limit. About NV5 NV5 is a provider of professional and technical engineering and con- sulting solutions firm serving public and private sector clients in the infrastructure, energy, construction, real estate, and environmental markets through more than 100 locations worldwide. NV5 primar- ily focuses on five business verticals: construction quality assurance, infrastructure engineering and support services, energy, program man- agement, environmental services, and technology solutions, including geospatial services through its subsidiary Quantum Spatial, Inc., the largest full-service geospatial solutions provider in North America. MIKE STYS, Vice President at NV5, has 20 years of experience managing infrastructure engineering design and survey projects, utilizing his technical expertise and results-oriented technology solutions that increase accuracy, minimize costs, and help to deliver projects on schedule.
lize personnel for follow-up site visits. This will save a minimum of $2,500 per each site revisit day. We typically see time savings of up to 40 percent for mapping quality data collection vs. traditional or con- ventional methods. More importantly, the quality, precision and high level of detail is unmatched with any other method or tool. • Better risk management – Remotely capturing survey grade data in busy roadways or other inherently dangerous geographies immediately improves surveyor and public safety. For example, when doing sur- veys, firms often have to shut down roads or put in place traffic control measures, which often come as a surprise to drivers. Using drones, instead of boots on the ground, surveyors do not need to venture into highly traveled or risky geographic areas and eliminate driver or pe- destrian obstacles. Using UAVs for low altitude, very high resolution ortho-mosaic pho- tography, combined with high precision lidar, also helps reduce risk by producing survey grade measurable aerial photos and point cloud data. This high quality data helps designers more accurately interpret fea- tures on the ground, both horizontally and vertically, and avoid major design errors. A hillside with heavy vegetation is shown in the pictures below. A detailed topographic image of existing surface conditions is needed to properly plan earth movement, which is one of the highest costs in most construction projects, thus the highest risk. These images show the amount of detail that is captured with the photography and lidar that penetrates vegetation and provides a very accurate model of existing conditions for base engineering efforts. • Reduction of injuries - Because the existing condition data is col- lected remotely and quickly with a UAV, it can be assumed that injuries to field surveyors will significantly reduce. While there are no specific quantifiable numbers supporting this, we can apply some basic risk reduction principles to prove this. In short, fewer people in dangerous areas or unstable ground will certainly reduce injuries. • Minimized community impact - This goes hand-in-hand with both previous benefits. Using drones to remotely capture data eliminates our need to change traffic patterns to accommodate surveys, which mini- mizes bottlenecks and frustrations for commuters. And the increased efficiency enables us to complete our projects faster and minimize the disruptions construction projects may have to surrounding areas. Building Strong Best Practices If you are interested in adding drones and advanced sensors to your data collection toolbox for gathering survey-grade data, there are some important best practices to consider in your implementation: • Establish safety protocols – Safety must be priority #1. All equip- ment should be inspected thoroughly before and after every flight. Ad- ditionally, those individuals involved in the UAV-based data collection should be properly trained and FAA certified, follow all FAA flight safety and company-specific rules, and have a detailed knowledge of the area being surveyed to minimize risks. One thing that you may need to also be aware of is the distraction even drones can cause. Many companies use light-colored drones, instead of black ones, so they blend into the sky and are less noticeable to passersby.
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