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Optimising Efficiencies of Large Road Contracts Using Drone Capture and AR

Progress reporting is a core element of many business models. Project managers require ways to assert the progress of a construction, the maintenance status of assets etc. To increase operational efficiency, many systems today already use a mix of digital tools ranging from manual 2D photography and videos to volumetric drone image capture. In this cooperation between Air Inspect Australia and Appearition, 3D models of a civil works construction site taken in monthly intervals become part of the progress report. WebAR allows visualisation of these 3D models via any smartphone and handheld device.

Project managers must coordinate activities of every project to ensure the progress of the construction and the maintenance of assets. They are faced with constant challenges to reduce costs, increase operational efficiencies, and time constraints whilst trying to meet internal and external stakeholders’ expectations. Additionally, the drawback of these pressures is the digital matrix of the various tools required to provide the relevant reporting data sets to the various stakeholders. Appearition and Air Inspect Australia have found a solution.

Traditional Methods

In a recent brief, a civil construction company was awarded a contract to build a new road in South Morang, a suburb north-east of Melbourne. Their previous method of performing its regular cut and fill volume calculations was to employ ground-based surveying instruments. The monthly measurements would be carried out by two or three staff using ground stations and GPS instruments. The staff and surveyors would be on site, whereby massive earth moving trucks and uneven ground surface made access to these areas potentially very dangerous to survey.

Our Solution

Manned surveying was replaced with flight surveying. Surveyors applied the highly accurate drone-captured data to work out topsoil volume, plus the volume of all topsoil stockpiles. By adopting regular capturing intervals, the data set was used to analyse cost for the earthworks and to calculate the assigned cut and fill. The data set was then optimised for AR viewing, enabling 3D visualisation in any location simply via handheld devices.

The Benefits

Our solution was able to deliver far improved data acquisition efficiencies resulting in faster survey times whilst simultaneously improving surveyor safety. When comparing the time and effort of manned surveying to drone flight surveying, it was evident that the drone could provide data collection in a half day versus 3-5 days for terrestrial topography. But the company not only saw  a large reduction in survey times and costs, it also took out the laborious task of measuring the cut and fill for each survey drone mapping and no longer placed a risk on the safety of their staff.

Further, the advantages of aerial mapping do not end at completion of the site: the data set captured over time is conducive to proactive maintenance post completion. By using overlays of the compiled annotated data, users can highlight the differences between the data set captured over a period.

The enhanced and marked-up data set of the worksite can be observed as a virtual object in 3D via WebAR. WebAR makes available a higher degree of flexibility, providing a means to visualise and access the captured stages of construction in 3D simply with smartphones and tablets, anywhere from Boardrooms to the home office. This remote access technology facilitates viewing of the 3D model in a convenient and safe setting, eliminates high risk situations to the company, its staff and their clients, and allows the company to share more useful and actionable information to external stakeholders.

With AR

In concert, Appearition and Air Inspect Australia developed a strategy to overcome the traditional challenges of proffering accurate and informative visualisations and the ability to access them with ease.

The entire richness of the drone capture data can be visualised not only via digital point clouds and 3D meshes, but also in full 3D via Appearition’s WebAR technology for smartphones and tablets. A virtual model of the civil works site can now be represented on any surface, simply by scanning a QR code which triggers the model to be visualised via WebAR. This app-less AR technology is the most accessible form of AR visualisation. Appearition’s intelligent visualisation for the Web further allows for overlaying the 3D model with live data sets.

By combining WebAR with digital data modelling based on drone capture, Appearition and Air Inspect Australia make it easy for a company to improve stakeholders’ understanding and trust.  It is no secret that drones in surveying provide efficiency, increase quality of data collection, greatly reduce costs, minimise risks and improve safety outcomes. Appearition and Air Inspect Australia’s partnership will revolutionise the way companies plan, collaborate, compare, review, and decide on future building and civil engineering projects and project investment businesses for their clients.