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Verifying Earthwork With Drones

January 2, 2018



Sometimes at construction sites, disputes can arise.  There can be a discrepancy between the way the earth was moved and how it was supposed to be moved, etc. One might think that the construction company needs to be more accurate, or that the two sides need to communicate more clearly.  But those are 20th century solutions.  


Today, it’s all about data.  The more comprehensive your data, and the more often you can collect it, the more accurate the results will be, and the less chance for misunderstandings.  This is called verifying earthwork.


Verifying earthwork means taking data on a daily basis as the topography from the site changes, then comparing the resulting orthomosaic to the plans.  That way, the earth-moving crew can’t make a big mistake, and exact data will settle or prevent disputes.
The first step in verifying earthwork is to get precise measurements of the site.  This happens in large sites, those with a variety of grades, any place that would be expensive, difficult, or time-consuming to do manually.  A UAS is programmed to video the site, which can be done in a single flight, or may take a few.


From there, the task is to make an orthomosaic, a detailed map created by the data. The orthomosaic is made with software designed for that purpose.  This is how you can compare the dimensions of the site at a particular moment with the plans.  The maps are 3D and can be imported to PDF format for easy sharing and handling.  


If “cut and fill” maps are necessary, many of the state-of-the-art software can create these as well, getting everyone on the same page in terms of what remains to be done.
Analysis using drones takes only a couple of hours, including the production of the orthomosaic.  It also saves you the manpower.  As far as the software goes, we use PIX4D for orthomosaics and data points.  The software provides volumetric measurements, digital surface models, and terrain modeling.


Now, it goes without saying that ProSky Studio starts the process with licensed and experienced drone pilots, along with DJI Inspire and Phantom aircraft, and DJI and Nikon cameras. Each component of the process has to be of the highest quality and it has to be executed well.  Not all drones, operators, or software are created equal.