From planning to final construction, nearly every stage of the engineering process can benefit from the aerial craft.
Large projects currently are usually flown using helicopters and used only once due to the cost involved, in the future the mapping applications (both 2D imagery and 3D surfaces) can be more of a dynamic process with multiple flights throughout the life of the project. This can help in updating design imagery and surfaces and also help management track construction progress.
Currently, when a civil engineers wants to show existing conditions for a project, photos and aerial imagery are used to recreate these areas in 3D. Time consuming and imprecise, the results aren’t usually great. However, with a UAV to fly a project and collect the incredible footage UAVs can, through the process of compositing a civil engineer can combine the existing aerial footage with a virtual 3D fly-through showing a proposed project with realism beyond what is currently possible.
The other area where UAVs can transform 3D visualization in civil engineering as we know it is through the use of photoscanning. This is related to the current LiDAR/surface capturing techniques but differs in the fact that surfaces are rebuilt using only cameras (no laser scanning necessary). But not only can you capture the surface of the ground, photoscanning can capture the entire world as it currently exists. This includes trees, infrastructure, buildings, city furniture… and so on.
This technology rebuilds these objects in 3D- using only the pictures and fancy algorithms- and also applies the images to the objects as a texture for an ultra-realistic look and feel. (You can try this technology yourself for free using the 123D Catch app by Autodesk).
The use of drones for environmental monitoring in the U.S. is expected to grow. Environmental uses are a big part of the potential future role of drones, ranging from pipeline monitoring to conservation. UAV inspection is an effective tool for environmental monitoring and enforcement because of their ability to reach areas that would be otherwise inaccessible or cost-prohibitive. Just a few of the uses include Basis for reconstruction work | Environmental Studies | Land Surface Hydrology Studies | Wetlands Studies | Coastal and Beach Erosion | Meteorology and Climate Change Research.
Drones are revolutionizing forestry companies and municipalities, used to survey and measure timber stockpile materials, prevent wildfires, and achieve high resolution landscape mapping, the use of UAVs provides indispensable data. Just a few uses include Community Wildfire Planning | Forest Inventory Maintenance | Regional Wildfire Planning | Forest Activity Monitoring | Ecosystem Decision Support Systems | Wildfire Risk Analysis | Vegetation Analysis | Wildfire Fuels and Canopy Mapping
Drones are changing utilities in a variety of ways.
The way utilities inspect and survey generation facilities, impacting transmission and distribution infrastructure, and terrain by enabling the rapid, accurate, and safe collection of high-resolution imagery. A number of uses include Utility Assets Mapping | Wind Infrastructure Siting Studies | Solar Infrastructure Siting Analysis | Environmental Studies | Water and Reservoir Management | Slack Line Measurements | Utility Corridor Mapping | Structure Mapping.
LiDAR helps farmers find areas that overuse costly fertilizer. LiDAR can create an elevation map of the farmland that is then be converted to create a slope and sunlight exposure area map. This data is used to reveal high, medium and low crop production areas. Extracted information will help farmer to save on the costly fertilizer.
LiDAR can be leveraged by the mining industry for site surveying in the planning phase, and volumetric changes as mining operations proceed through time. LiDAR point clouds can be compared through time to calculate the amount of material excavated from the mine or to simply monitor the changing shape of the mining area of operations. Using drone-equipped LiDAR systems is portable, fast, and inexpensive compared to manned aircraft alternatives.
Geology & Archeology
Archeologists have used LiDAR systems to reveal ancient ruins in dense jungle areas around the world. While spectacular finds have been made, the cost to fly LiDAR on a manned aircraft is quite prohibitive. Our drone-equipped LiDAR systems can peer through dense vegetation at a fraction of the cost. Geologist can produce LiDAR point clouds over any terrain to provide a 3D visualization of geologic formations that can be studied in detail before sending researchers out to traverse difficult terrain. Combining LiDAR with Photogrammetry through our LiDAR systems and Geodetics’ Point & Pixel LiDAR-Photogrammetry fusion software could revolutionize drone-LiDAR-Photogrammetry geology applications.
Emergency Mitigation Planning
The 2017 hurricane season in the U.S. brought exceptional damage and misery to many residents. Drones were used extensively to help first responders collect images in extremely hard to reach areas. In addition to thermal cameras that can detect heat from people in distress, LiDAR can be used to see through dense vegetation where storm victims may be in distress and unable to contact responders.