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.

Using Drones for Same Day Job Site Aerial Photography

Using Drones for Same Day Job Site Aerial Photography

A few years ago, D.L. Howell and Associates recognized the importance drones would be having in the Civil Engineering and Land Surveying services. Today, D.L. Howell has two licensed UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) Pilots and has flown and rendered multiple job sites in Chester County.

As both a UAS Pilot and a Civil Designer at D.L. Howell, I have come to realize one of the best uses of “Same Day” Drone aerial site photography is the speed and accuracy with which we can generate more accurate preliminary sketch plans and designs for our clients.

Many civil engineering and surveying companies in Chester County use Google Earth Imagery or Bing Maps Imagery, which is okay in some cases for preliminary design, but can complicate the site design sketch process if the imagery is out of date. Sometimes this aerial information is months if not years old, resulting in potentially inaccurate conceptual design. These inaccuracies can cost a client time and money down the road.

​Using UAS Systems or Drone flights to get “Same Day” Imagery for a project site provides extremely accurate information to the engineering team and the client.

The flight team at D.L. Howell will delineate the area of interest, and then schedule a drone flight based on weather and location of the project site. We will then go to the location, set up the drone for the flight, fly the entire project, direct the drone safely to landing, and return to the office for processing of information captured during the flight. Depending on the size of the project site, D.L. Howell can typically have the information processed within the same day.

Once we have the processed aerial imagery from the drone, the Engineering and Design team at D.L. Howell can then begin their proposed site sketch or design for the client.

Because the aerial information gathered by the drone shows exactly what existing features exist on site, D.L. Howell can provide more accurate solutions for our clients than other engineering companies using aging aerial imagery. This drone technology is also an effective way of monitoring site construction once a project has been approved. Flying the drone every few weeks will allow the client to see the project’s progression…from the air!

The use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems or Drones by D.L. Howell and Associate and Howell Kline Surveying gives us a distinct advantage over the other engineering and surveying companies in Chester County for providing the most accurate preliminary site designs and effectively tracking project development.

It is our goal to provide our clients with the best engineering and land surveying services in Chester County and adding Drone and UAS technology services will help us accomplish that task!

Shown above is a map of some of the site that has been flown by the D.L. Howell Pilots!

For more information on Drone / UAS services in Chester County, Contact D.L. Howell and Associates at (610) 918-9002, and we will be happy to schedule a flight for your next project.

Chatham Financial Parking Lot Expansion

Chatham Financial Parking Lot Expansion


D.L.Howell & Associates, Inc. is continuing to work with Chatham Financial on another project at their Corporate Headquarters in Kennett Township. Chatham acquired a parcel of ground adjacent to their existing campus allowing them to construct additional surface parking. The new parking area will consist of 161 spaces and connect to an existing 80 space parking lot and internal driveway DLH designed in 2014. Both of these parking lots will allow Chatham to complete construction of their Phase III building project and will replace a 4 level parking structure. Chatham intends to have the parking completed by the end of summer this year allowing building construction to commence in the fall. DLH is designing the site to meet and exceed the State and Township requirements for storm water management and infiltration. DLH is utilizing underground stone beds, a large rain garden and extensive landscaping within and around the site. Chatham requested DLH to specify LED site lighting throughout the parking lot and upgrade the existing light fixtures to match. DLH is working closely with the owner, and design team including; John Jaros from Riley Riper Hollin & Colegreco and Patrick Stuart from Orsatti Stuart Landscape Architects to develop detailed site plans and obtain final Land Development approval.