Improve Earthworks Accuracy with Drone Data

April 30, 2021

Conducting earthworks can be one of the most challenging and costly aspects of any project. In an ultra-competitive construction industry with high equipment costs, high risk, and tight margins, the difference between success and failure can be thin. Knowing this, it’s no surprise that many contractors, GCs, and surveyors are looking into drone data to help gain a competitive edge and increase margins.

The main challenges with earthwork accuracy come down to quantity reporting and progress monitoring. Keeping track of topsoil, gravel, dirt, and other material as it’s being excavated can be complicated in such a fast, dynamic environment. Similarly, understanding how much material has been moved and to where can be difficult to keep track of, while infrequent surveys produce outdated information, and do little to stop cost overruns or missed deadlines.

Using DroneDeploy, surveyors and project managers are now able to improve both the accuracy and frequency of earthworks with the use of aerial imagery, doing what used to take 2-4 weeks for a single survey, down to a matter of hours.

Photo Credit: Brasfield & Gorrie

Drone Data in Action on the Job Site

Brasfield & Gorrie, a long-time customer of DroneDeploy, has been using aerial surveying to conduct earthworks measurements since 2016. While conducting work on a 61-acre hospital construction site in Florida, the VDC group received a request to determine the current overall site grade to the proposed finished grade. Measuring the elevations of the earthworks using traditional survey methods would have been a very expensive and time-consuming process. Using a drone map allowed the VDC team to assess earthwork on the site much faster and with more detail than they could have done using traditional methods. According to Charles, the field engineer, completing the same project with traditional methods would have required over 1,000 survey shots over 2-3 weeks to complete the drone survey. Using DroneDeploy, he was able to capture the site in under a day.


DroneDeploy Capabilities for Construction

Over 5,000 customers across 200 countries are currently using DroneDeploy to monitor their sites. Using some of the latest earthworks management tools, general contractors and surveyors have been using DroneDeploy to capture high-accuracy aerial surveys in a fraction of the time.

Understanding how much earth has been moved, and being able to compare against surface design, is an invaluable tool in an all-in-one solution. With DroneDeploy, users can:

  • Survey a standard construction site in as little as 20 minutes with automated flights
  • Compare design surfaces against their aerial maps to locate moved earth
  • Validate subcontractor claims on excavation or removal projects
  • Monitor changes throughout the earthworks phase to ensure the project is on schedule and within budget
  • Audit the site once work is completed to ensure it’s within design and expectations

Users can also leverage ground control point technology, or RTK/PPK technology to increase drone mapping accuracy. With over 200 million acres processed on DroneDeploy, we’ve been able to optimize our processing to generate high-quality 3D models quickly and efficiently, resulting in less time tagging GCPs or survey points, and more time viewing actionable data.

While managing earthworks is not easy, it can be less painful to get accurate, up-to-date surveys of your site. Combined with DroneDeploy’s world-class drone Map Engine, open platform, APIs, and a suite of integrations into popular Project Management software such as Procore, Bluebeam, and Autodesk BIM 360, project managers now have high accuracy data available at their fingertips. Check out our Construction Solution page for more information on how you can leverage DroneDeploy to improve your earthworks accuracy with aerial data, and for a detailed look at earthworks, download our free eBook.

About the Author

Getting started is simple. Request a demo today.