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3DR Presents New Tools for Using Drones in Construction

Reality Capture Guru
March 29, 2016

3DR Presents New Tools for Using Drones in Construction

California-based 3DR designs and manufactures commercial and recreational drones (aka unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs). One of the company’s most recent drones is the Solo—a ‘smart’ drone with fully integrated drone and smartphone technology.

Now the company has released Site Scan software, providing Solo users one-click data collection and processing that’s integrated with popular Autodesk design tools such as AutoCAD, Civil 3D, InfraWorks, Navisworks, and Revit. With Site Scan, geotagged data is uploaded to Autodesk ReCap 360 for processing into orthorectified 2D maps, 3D digital terrain models, and 3D point clouds or meshes.

This video from 3DR explains how it works, but here’s a quick summary of how Solo combined with Site Scan can help you capture existing conditions of a site for integration into your Autodesk Reality Computing workflow.

How it works

One of the big benefits of the Solo drone is that it’s ready to fly right out of the box. It has a simple controller with joysticks and a holder for a tablet/screen. The controller computer can automatically control both copter and camera positioning in flight and also features a built-in WiFi hub . The controller’s powers both a WiFi hub to keep you constantly connected and a built-in HDMI port for live broadcast of camera’s video feed.

To create a 2D maps or 3D digital elevations models of an area, you launch the Site Scan application from the controller, and select the Survey tool. The screen automatically displays a map/overhead satellite image of your surrounding area. You then draw an outline on the image to select the area you want to survey and set the resolution you need.

To create a photorealistic georeferenced 3D model of existing conditions, you launch Site Scan and select the Scan tool. Then, instead of outlining an area to be surveyed, you select the object you want to model and specify the drone’s highest altitude.

In either situation, Site Scan automatically defines a set of photographs the Solo drone needs to take and its flight pattern. When ready to launch, you push a button and Solo flies the mission displayed on the flight map and, when it’s finished, lands where it took off.

The images are then automatically processed in ReCap 360 PRO to create orthorectified, georeferenced mosaics or 3D meshes or point clouds. Processed imagery is available immediately in your A360 account. Once processed, the reality data is available for you to import into Autodesk software, supporting various uses such as:

  • Monitoring sites
  • Measuring stockpile volumes to track the movement of materials across the site or off the site
  • Creating contour maps and elevation data
  • Capturing as-built or existing conditions reality data

3DR Presents New Tools for Drones in Construction


What it can do

The 3DR video contains some practical examples of how Solo, Site Scan, and Autodesk software can be used for both construction and design.

Today, construction companies often use traditional surveying methods to calculate and monitor the volume of material in stockpiles throughout the construction process. This usually involves some sort of partial operations shutdown while paying survey crews to scan or survey the stockpiles on the site. Depending on the size of the project, this can take hours or days, and cost the construction firm both money and lost production. And the companies and surveyors are at risk while crews climb up and down the steep piles with expensive equipment. Once they’re done with their survey, the surveyors have to return to the office and process their data.

But with the Solo and Site Scan application, 3DR has condensed that process into minutes. The Solo mission can be completely planned and executed from the Site Scan app. The operator can keep out of the way of site operations and stay clear of the stockpiles. When the Solo mission is done, the data is processed in the cloud and (while crews are still on site) can be downloaded and viewed in ReCap 360. More importantly, the data has been automatically scaled and referenced to its location on the earth, and you can use it—without any further effort—in Autodesk applications.

From a design point of view, many InfraWorks users currently develop proposal/conceptual-level infrastructure designs in the context of the project’s surroundings. But often it’s difficult to find detailed information about a specific project’s proposed site, so the design context is based on city or county-wide scales (ie lower resolution). With Site Scan software and Solo drones, companies can use InfraWorks to create large city or county-wide models and then enhance that model with accurate georeferenced data from the Site Scan app and Solo mission. This helps the designers better reflect existing conditions in the immediate project area to communicate a potential building, infrastructure, or site development project.

3DR Presents New Tools for Using Drones


Game on

By providing automated flight and deep integration with Autodesk design and construction software, Site Scan is the ultimate aerial toolkit. It has the potential to institutionalize the use of drones, helping Autodesk customers quickly, easily, and cost-effectively develop existing conditions for their sites.

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