Aerial Optimization of Construction Sites

Neu Robotics
Nov 9, 2017 · 6 min read

There are always going to be more contractors than projects out there, it becomes highly competitive for the contractors to show their efficiency and precision in delivering a perfect project.

Site photos for a drone inspection with AoX

Noah Poponak, aerospace and defense senior equity research analyst in Goldman Sachs Research, lays out how he sees drones evolving into a $100 billion market by 2020. Drones in construction can provide solutions that might not even optimize but rather revolutionize how construction companies design their work flow. Neu Robotics Inc, a Texas based autonomous robotics company doesnt shy away from showing off their drone which specializes in scanning and regenerating 3d models of structures and terrains, that enables aerial data for the engineers to work with. The drone is 7 pounds and can traverse autonomously and send back data its collected. The data collected is processed over the cloud and regenerates the 3-d model for engineers to use in their native programs.

AoX comes equipped with 2 options, one of an external non-stereoscopic camera attached which takes all the data and relays it to the cloud, while the other option comes with a stereoscopic camera which collects data and processes on the fly to have data already collected and processed to use as soon as it lands. This data is highly useful for a process used by contractors and builders called as Building Information Model(BIM). BIM is a very useful tool and has been used since the advent of computer based modelling in the building business.

BIM gathers all data from the different parts of the structure like Architecture, plumbing, electrical, structure, HVAC and many more other dependencies, then overlays all the plans over each other using control points to regulate the dimensional accuracy.

A structure is much harder to estimate as once it is made it is concrete and cannot be redone, BIM helps in giving assurance to all different contractors that the plan they have designed, and relayed forward is not conflicting with some other contractors’ design ensuring guarantee of no failures. But BIM has grown over time from being just a tool for mid and low-level management to high level management as they can input these models and estimate the exact cost and inventory to be engaged in such a project. Having such vital information helps them give more accurate details to client and investors regarding such data and reducing overhead. Integrated practices and involving more productive processes. 23% of budget is lost in over ordering or stocking . Lean practices will lead to new integrated process that help in executing a project digitally.

Neu Robotics Inc, AoX

Neu Robotics focuses on such processes and works towards simplifying and providing more data to engineers thus allowing an evolution in the design and BIM. The AoX is an asymmetric drone completed 3d printed from proprietary 3d printable carbon fiber which allows the drone to have a very stable platform which allows the drone to autonomously collect data regardless of environmental conditions. The data collected is converted into a point cloud/3-d model of terrain and structures which it has surveyed. This data can then be used by upper as well as medium management to constantly track progress of the project as well as provide accurate asset management to clients to make them feel more comfortable.

3-d Model generated after a flight in less than a day

Traditionally this was done with a terrestrial LIDAR which is a ground based rotating LIDAR(Light Detection and Ranging) which is in one place and has an accuracy of up to 3 mm. But the problem with this LIDAR is since it is stationary it has a lot of problems with shadows of objects as in the LIDAR cannot see anything behind an object which can be of much of a flaw to many engineers. Due to this shortcoming the LIDAR must be specifically placed in such a way that least shadows are registered and must be moved to places to ensure all the key characteristics of the structure can be registered. This process is cumbersome for engineers and is time consuming considering the LIDAR must be moved every time. This process is also not the best for outdoor use and since every time it must be shifted for a new reading, all the data collected must be realigned to make sure that there are no conflicting data points. In addition to these problems the terrestrial LIDAR is bulky and a very costly equipment which must be handled by experienced engineers and even more experienced engineers to process the data collected from it.

Area and Volume Based calculations on models developed

With Neu Robotics AoX this entire process can automated without the need of experienced engineers or pilots

The AoX comes equipped with an onboard camera systems and processors that take care of easy autonomous flight with directions and area selected by you on your choice of handheld smart devices, with your choice of altitude and flexibility. The drone will deploy on the mission once all the pre-flight checks are done on it which ensure it is working perfectly, once the drone deploys it collects all the data and will return back to the takeoff point where it delivers all the data collected by it without the need of a pilot or experienced engineer. With a low foot print this drone can be tucked away easily into a corner on the site. The drone usually takes about 2–3 hours to generate a complete map of the data its collected and delivers a uncompressed processed point cloud data in various formats to its main user.

Drone AoX surveying a construction site

This data can be used in variety of purposes like estimation, planning as well as inventory management on a site. BIM can be highly sped up by this process as this process can be done on a more regular basis than bringing in a costly equipment like terrestrial LIDAR. This helps with one of the most important purpose of BIM known as Request For Information (RFI).

RFI is a type of request which can be pulled by various contractors to make sure that their designs are not having any conflicts with current or uploaded plans.

RFI must include collaborative designs and plans of other contractors and terrestrial LIDAR which can now be incorporated aerial data collected by AoX. This data reveals real time situations at the site and enables contractors to work even remotely. With such processes in hands of experienced engineers enables the firms to provide more exact data to clients as well as contractors thus speeding up their processes and enabling more optimization in their processes as this is not a disruptive technology but rather a complimenting one which can enable so much more flexibility in projects.

But this is not all the drone can help with achieving on the site but it can help with much more important tasks in the entire process of construction from foundation to the end finish.

One of the experimental uses of Neu Robotics AoX has been to survey a plot before any construction starts and then over lay the elevation on the point cloud data to find the most optimum position for a crane to be mounted so that it can achieve all its purposes and make sure that it is not conflicting with the structure as it progresses over time.

Other issues on a site that can be tackled with the use of a drone on site can be by using machine learning for asset tracking and management. This enables the drone to register various objects and learn to count them with respect to the day and its usage.

These drones when not used in the day can be used to monitor security for the site. These definitely claim towards that drones like these from American Companies are out to optimize the process surrounding structural projects in every way and at every step thus making our future more precise and safe.

— Nitesh Panchal

Chief Technical Officer,

Neu Robotics Inc.

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