InterDrone, the future of Drones for Engineering and Surveying

InterDrone, the future of Drones for Engineering and Surveying

In September of this year, I had the pleasure of traveling out to the InterDrone 2018 conference in Las Vegas, Nevada to research and discover the latest in Drone hardware and software technology. My goal was to find out what new drones and software will be coming out soon and how DLHowell and Howell Kline can utilize these technologies to improve our engineering and surveying services.

Keynotes from Daniel K. Elwell

The first keynote of the convention was from Daniel K. Elwell. He is the Acting Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). He gave a very inspiring speech on how the FAA is very interested in working with companies and UAS operators to provide safe airspace for manned and Unmanned aircraft. I was very impressed with his keynote and his efforts to forward the Drone airspace and technology for the future.

InterDrone Classes and Presentations

The professionals at InterDrone took the courses to the next level. Some of the presentations I attended went over up and coming FAA regulations for UAS pilots, 3D Mapping using drones for surveying as well as best practices for mission planning.

Drone Hardware Technology

The advancements in drone technology are just incredible. You may have seen the DJI Phantom 4 drone which is a standard in the industry, but the equipment at InterDrone seemed like something from a SciFi TV Show. Some of the latest technology included drones with hybrid fuel systems enabling flight times greater than two hours. Other UAS systems are based on wing designs that could cover large areas, 100+ acres in one flight but were also able to take off and land vertically. There are also security drones that could be deployed to take down rogue drones.

InterDrone 2018 Photos

InterDrone, Final Thoughts

There was a lot of information to collect in only a few short days at InterDrone 2018, but I can certainly say that utilizing unmanned aircraft in the construction, surveying, and civil engineering industries will be a new tool we can all use to improve the industry.

 

Red Hill, The largest fuel depot in Hawaii.

Red Hill, The largest fuel depot in Hawaii.

This year my wife and I had the privilege of vacationing in Hawaii. There are many things to do in such a beautiful state, and one of our first adventures was to visit Pearl Harbor and experience the naval base and the memorials. During our trip to Pearl Harbor, we boarded a tour bus that took us from one site to another. Our tour guide gave us information about the base, the barracks, and the airfield. During the ride, she had mentioned one topic that peaked my interest.

She was describing the Red Hill fuel depot complex. This is an underground fuel depot that was built approximately three miles away from Pearl Harbor. Our tour guide had mentioned that this fuel depot won the award for civil engineering excellence in 1995. When I heard that, my ears perked up and inspired me to do more research on this facility that won this civil engineering award.

What is the Redhill Fuel storage facility?

In 1940 it was decided to build an underground fuel storage facility to protect America’s fuel from attack. At that time, all of the fuel for the Navy was stored in aboveground tanks, making them very vulnerable to air attacks. The construction of a subsurface fuel depot would protect the nation’s fuel during an attack. The development of this project was quite a massive and incredible undertaking.

Red Hill Construction.tif
By Leslie.nelsonOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

I recommend watching this 15-minute video of the Redhill Fuel storage facility if you would like to learn more about it.

Some of the engineering ideas they came up with to construct this facility were amazing. One such idea was to construct the tanks vertically with a center shaft so debris could be removed easily. This fuel storage facility is made up of 20 pill shaped steel lined underground storage tanks that are capable of holding up to 250 million gallons of fuel. That’s equivalent to about 379 Olympic size swimming pools! Each tank can hold approximately 12.5 Million gallons of fuel, and they are connected to the fueling piers at Pearl Harbor by three gravity fed lines that are 2 1/2 miles long.

The Redhill Fuel storage facility was constructed near Honolulu, Hawaii and in 1995 the American Society of Civil Engineers established it as a civil engineering landmark.

It’s incredible what civil engineers can accomplish when they put their minds to it. The Red Hill fuel storage facility is one of those fantastic accomplishments and worthy of this civil engineering landmark award.

Credits:

https://www.asce.org/project/red-hill-underground-fuel-storage-facility/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Hill_Underground_Fuel_Storage_Facility

Volumes, Areas and Cross Sections Using Drones

As D.L.Howell and Associates continues to advance our drone program, we find more and more ways to utilize the data we acquire when we fly a site. The software we use gives us more than just a high-resolution image, it also allows us to get approximate volumes of basins, topsoil stockpiles and cross section information for areas we choose.
Below are some examples of volumes, areas and cross-sections.

Getting the Volume of a Stockpile

In Photo 1 below, we see a site that was flown using the drone.  Our goal is to get the volumes of the two stockpiles.  In Photo 2,  we show a color elevation map of the area.  We can use this image to draw a border around the area of interest.

Top Soil Stock Pile

Photo 1: Topsoil stockpile

Elevation Map

elevation map of stockpiles
Photo 2: This view shows the elevation map of the stockpiles.

Using the Drone Deploy software, we can draw an area that we would like to get the volume of.  After drawing a border around our area, we can see that this stockpile contains approximately 2,757.5 cubic yards of soil.  We will also do the same for the smaller stockpile area to the left.  The smaller stockpile area contains approximately 87.6 cubic yards of soil.

Using the Drone and Software to get Cross-section Information

Here is a sample site.  We will be looking at the basin and the building.

In this example, we are using the same color elevation map to generate a quick cross-section of a basin.  The line passing through the middle of the basin will show our cross-section information to the left.

Basin Cross-section

We can also use the same elevation information to get the basic cross-section of a building.  If we mark a cross-section line across the building we can get the width and height of the building as seen in the cross-section to the left.

Cross-section of a building

Using the Drone and software to get Area Information

Here is a sample pond, we would like to find out the area at the waterline.

Getting the area of a pond using Drone Deploy

We can use the area command to trace around the waterline to get the area of the pond which is 0.948 acres.

Getting the area of a pond

In conclusion, using drones for engineering and surveying will Increase in 2018!

Using drones to gather information about a site for our company and our clients is becoming a very important part of our business.  The data we can quickly collect and process flying a site with a drone has helped us during the site design phase of a project while at the same time assisting us in answering questions for clients about their projects.

If you are in need of any of these services for your project, contact D.L. Howell and Associates and ask to speak with one of our ever growing team of certified UAS Pilots.

We will be happy to fly your next project! (610) 918-9002

DLHowell Drone Pilot John Hubickey

D.L.Howell Drone Pilot John Hubickey, always looking up!

 

Using Drones for ALTA Surveys 

Using Drones for ALTA Surveys 

D.L Howell & Associates started incorporating the use of UAV’s or Drones into our Civil Engineering and Surveying workflow in 2016, and the use of Drones has actually “Taken Off” for both companies. 

One of the latest uses was an ALTA Survey for a shopping center in Douglass Township, Montgomery County, PA consisting of 13.6 acres.   See the image below. 

For each flight, we follow the below procedure to ensure efficient, safe mapping of the sites. 

  1. Locate the site and add it to the mapping software to produce a flight plan.  Depending on the size of the site, more time and batteries may be required.
  2. Fill out the required NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) form, so aircraft and the FAA know there will be drone operations in a small area for a short time.
  3. Check the weather to make sure the wind speed is good for flying.
  4. Travel to the site and prepare the drone for the flight.
  5. Flight safety check, Takeoff, Fly the site, Landing.
  6. Return to the office with the drone image data and upload the image data for processing.

Image processing turnaround time can vary depending on the size of the subject site. However, on a small site such as this, the processed data is typically received the same day. 

Here is a 360 degree panoramic of the site.

The level of accuracy we can achieve using the Drone to fly and map the site is quite high.  To further improve the accuracy of the drone flight and map, the Surveyors at HowellKline Surveying gather ground control point data (also known as GCPs), which can be uploaded with the image data and linked to the final georeferenced image. 

John Hubickey UAS Drone Pilot Surveying

Once the data is processed, we are notified that the final Georeferenced image is ready for download. We then use this georeferenced image in AutoCAD. From the processed date we are also able to import topographical information and 3D point cloud data. 

The processing time for a site of this size is a matter of hours! On this particular project, we received the final Geolocated imagery before the end of the day. In the old days, if we had requested a typical aerial flight company to fly the site and provide us with the data, we’d have waited a week or more to receive the same information. The use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) in our project workflow decreases the time we can turn around Civil Engineering and Surveying data and information to our clients. 

D.L.Howell and HowellKline Surveying continues to push the limits of Civil Engineering and Surveying technology to provide the best services for our customers.  If you have a project or site that can benefit from a Drone flight, please contact D.L.Howell & Associates, and we would be happy to discuss how we can assist you.
 

 

Zach’s Experience as The Intern

Zach’s Experience as The Intern

My name is Zach Roberts, commonly referred to as “The Intern”. I am a senior at Henderson High School, planning to attend MIT next year to major in Civil Engineering. I will be with DL Howell for the rest of the month of May participating in a new West Chester Area School District program called “Learn to Earn”, which allows me to experience the real-life role of employees at a Civil Engineering firm. With the help of my Henderson advisor, my calculus teacher Mrs. Hohwald, I have been able to create this experience with DL Howell.

During my three week span, DL Howell has definitely kept me busy. I have visited numerous job sites to perform a variety of tasks, including droning and land surveying. I have been working hard to reform their company website and constructed a Google Map containing all of their job sites, which will be used on the company website as well. The employees have also been so kind and helpful in this process. In all of the tasks assigned to me, they have been very thorough and understandable when explaining what they want me to do. I cannot thank the company enough for that.

The program has been an invaluable learning opportunity to confirm my interest in the field of civil engineering and understand the practical use of math in a work environment. It will be extremely beneficial to know next year what it is I will be studying for and what I should focus on while I’m at school. While at MIT, I certainly plan to find an internship (hopefully) similar to the one I was given here at DL Howell.