Technology

Applying Drones for Better Decision Making

The construction industry continues to investigate new technology to maximize efficiencies in daily operations. At the forefront of the conversation are drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) due to their near-infinite use cases. As a General Contractor, HITT is interested in how UAVs can provide quality control measures and in-depth metrics for clients and subcontractors to make better and faster decisions that would otherwise be manually measured.

Hanger, a software company that leverages drone data analytics, provides a path for managing automated flights through a web-based platform, capturing salient details and bringing them directly to stakeholders in user-friendly context to better understand their data. A critical part of UAVs is having waypoint navigation technology and pilots that are part 107 certified. This certification proves the pilot is qualified in accordance with the FAA’s Small UAS Rule, governing logistics for drone use. While UAVs rely on an autopilot programming system for 360-degree imaging of a site, the pilot must maintain a line of sight to the UAV – safety and governance are key considerations with this technology. This programming allows multiple overlapping photos (80-90 percent overlap) of the site to be taken. These overlapping photos are turned into an orthomosaic image, or an aerial image that is autocorrected for possible camera distortions. This imaging is then available to the end-user in Hangar’s portal for analysis.

Ordering a flight through Hangar is a very streamlined process. Through their portal, you find the site location through an embedded map, set the schedule of the flight, or as they call it, a “mission,” and attach drawings or documentation for the project.

Upon mission completion, data is immediately uploaded to the platform. This triggers automated processing of the captured data that results in an interactive portal providing a multitude of measurement in one place.

HITT has utilized this type of technology on a growing number of projects. On a recent mission for a confidential client’s data center project, we wanted to capture earth movement metrics and underground infrastructure at various points in time, as well as remote tracking of the overall project progress compared to the Building Information Model (BIM).

  • The first key deliverable our mission provided was aerial mapping of the jobsite which is a standard for UAV applications in the field. Capturing perimeter imaging provided a full 360-degree viewpoint.
  • A second deliverable allowed us to conduct linear, area, or volumetric measurements directly within the interface. For example, the earth movement at the data center location resulted in a massive pile of earth that could be measured directly from the computer in a matter of seconds. These measurements allowed estimates for take offs, streamlining labor and time allocations.
  • The third key deliverable included a full historical timeline capture of missions, allowing us access to previous mission information for change detection, if needed. This assisted the operations team to sequence deliveries to the site and allowed for easy adjustments to avoid stockpiling of equipment and materials.

The platform’s added benefit of easy sharing with necessary decision makers enhanced communication by providing more accurate and in-depth information for faster and better decisions.

The site data files from Hangar can also be fused with the BIM model in Navisworks to provide deeper integration of the model to the jobsite.

Although UAVs are limited in terms of authorized flight locations and site accessibility based on surroundings (trees, neighboring buildings, etc.), HITT sees them as a very useful tool to implement for targeted purposes.

John Niles, Virtual Construction Manager, HITT Contracting

Aidan Hitt, Co|Lab Manager, HITT Contracting