Drone Delivers Quick Results for Large Construction Bid

Thomas Bartlett, CEO of Image In Flight, Describes Surveying a Large Construction Project & Shares His Advice

Apr 7, 2016 · 5 min read

By Anya Lamb, Marketing Manager @DroneDeploy

Construction sites around the globe are discovering the rapid insight and efficiency that drone imagery provides, and are using drones for monitoring construction progress, keeping track of equipment, 3D modeling and stockpile measurement and more. Here, we’ll be hearing from an expert drone pilot about how drones can bring value to a very specific stage of the construction process — bid and site selection.

Thomas Bartlett is CEO and founder of Image In Flight, an aerial media service company. A licensed commercial helicopter pilot and long-time RC aircraft enthusiast, Thomas got hooked on drones when his wife got him a DJI Phantom 2 for their anniversary one year. Soon, people began offering him money to fly his drone, and so Thomas got his 333 exemption and started his drone service company. He primarily flies a Phantom 3 and Inspire 1 for large construction clients in the Sacramento and Northern California area, including 3D modeling and weekly monitoring of live construction projects.

Thomas began by flying manually for his clients, but tried DroneDeploy when he was asked to fly a particularly large project. His favorite thing about DroneDeploy is the customer service.

“The customer service is amazing. Any time I’ve had any issue, they’ve always been crazy responsive.” — Thomas Bartlett

Surveying a Proposed Stadium Site

One of Thomas’ construction clients approached him about providing an aerial survey of a potential site for a new stadium project in California.

In addition to capturing images to use in the sales models, the drone imagery also helped calculate the volume of materials that would need to be removed from the site and the fill needed to bring the site up to grade.

Thoughtful Preparation Leads to a Seamless Workflow

Given the size of the project, 78 acres, Thomas opted to use DroneDeploy to map the area.

“Once they [the client] contacted me, they needed the completed project in less than a week, so the day after they contacted me, I went out and reviewed the location to see if there were any obstructions,” said Thomas. He found a several hundred foot tall TV tower on the southern side of the site, so he drove around the entire location to find the safest access point.

On the day of the project, Thomas loaded his pre-planned flight on DroneDeploy, verified the altitudes and overlaps, went through the safety checklist and took off.

Thomas used his DJI Phantom 3 Professional drone to map the site. Covering the 78 acres took about 1 hour and 15 minutes and required two battery swaps. He flew at 150 feet and captured 997 images. In order to ensure accuracy in the volume measurements of the piles, Thomas used 80% side overlap and 75% front overlap, slightly higher than usual.

“DroneDeploy really made this project possible. If I had to deliver the project in the amount of time given in a safe way without DroneDeploy, it would have been very difficult.” — Thomas Bartlett

Flight Details:

  • Area: 78 acres
  • Flight Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes (2 battery swaps)
  • Flight altitude: 150 feet
  • Images captured: 997
  • Overlap: 80% side overlap, 75% front overlap

Fast, Efficient Results

Thomas delivered an orthomosaic map, elevation map, 3D model and point cloud to the client. “I got a ton of compliments on the deliverables from the customer,” said Thomas.

Overall, the aerial survey that Thomas provided represented significant cost and time savings for the client.

It would have taken a team of two surveyors one week to complete the survey using traditional methods. It took Thomas only 1 hour and 15 minutes to fly the area with his Phantom 3. [Click to tweet]

Click the descriptions below the photos to explore the maps.

Explore the orthomosaic map of the site
Explore the elevation map of the site

Interactive 3D Model of the proposed construction site

Advice & Best Practices

For drone pilots looking to work with construction clients, Thomas has some advice to share.

“In my experience, and I’ve now worked with a bunch of construction companies, safety is their first priority,” said Thomas. “I always go to the site as soon as I’ve been asked to fly it. I review the site, and then contact the client to bring up any safety concerns. They really appreciate it, and have been universally accommodating of any adjustments needed to ensure the safety of the flight.”

Not only is checking out the location ahead of time important for ensuring safety, it can also help make the flight more efficient and effective since all potential obstacles are known and accounted for. “People think about major international airports, but they may not think about the nearest small airport, helipad or hospital that’s close.” Having to deal with a surprise obstacle on the day of a flight increases safety risks, wastes time, and can make a pilot look unprepared in front of a client.

For Thomas, checking out the site ahead of time gives him peace of mind — “so on the day I show up, I don’t have any concerns aside from accomplishing the data collection.”

Where to Learn More

Explore our support documentation to learn more about how to use some of the tools used in projects like this, including:

Try DroneDeploy on Your Construction Site

The features mentioned in this post are available as part of all of DroneDeploy’s customer plans, including the Pro plan, starting at $99 per month. Learn more about our paid subscription plans or start your free trial today.

Interested in sharing your story about how drones are bringing value to your business? We’d love to hear from you and feature you on our blog. Email marketing@dronedeploy.com to get in touch.

DroneDeploy's Blog

DroneDeploy is the leading cloud software platform for…

DroneDeploy's Blog

DroneDeploy is the leading cloud software platform for commercial drones. Learn more at www.dronedeploy.com


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DroneDeploy is the leading cloud software platform for commercial drones.

DroneDeploy's Blog

DroneDeploy is the leading cloud software platform for commercial drones. Learn more at www.dronedeploy.com