From aerial data to CAD drawings in minutes: the story of Airworks

Sophie Meralli
Oct 23, 2019 · 5 min read

AirWorks uses computer vision and deep learning to analyze aerial data in order to deliver CAD linework and topography to civil engineers and land surveyors, at a fraction of the time and cost of traditional surveying methods.

Two co-founders with a bold vision to automate the processing of aerial data

When we met with David Morczinek and Adam Kersnowski, the founders of AirWorks, we were impressed by their bold vision and passion to drive substantial time and cost savings into the lesser known $8 billion US Land Surveying industry, thereby disrupting the existing industry structure. Some of us may have encountered at some point in our lives a surveyor on the streets taking GPS and optical measurements with a tripod — a labor-intensive and time-consuming practice. This traditional practice has not fundamentally changed in hundreds of years and is now ripe for AI-based disruption. Our interviews with civil engineers and land developers revealed that surveyors are overbooked and can take several months to complete a survey project. In addition, Surveyors are getting older and new young talent is not being recruited into the profession. The average age of surveyors is between 58 and 60 years. While there are many players increasingly turning to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for autonomous data collection and image stitching, and various startups striving to serve them, no one other than Airworks is developing an aerial intelligence solution that converts aerial data into multi-layered CAD drawings.

David and Adam decided to combine their complementary skill sets to automate CAD drafting using AI, thereby speeding up the current surveying process by weeks. In order to succeed, they needed sophisticated geospatial, computer vision and civil engineering expertise. David has a background in aerospace engineering and managed aircraft sales and manufacturing contracts during his time at Airbus. During his MBA at MIT Sloan, he immersed himself into the UAV startup ecosystem, where he met Adam. Adam had run multiple businesses (including construction and UAV piloting) for the past 10 years. Together, they bring the perfect mix of domain expertise, engineering, and business skills required to achieve their vision.

Over the past 8 months, AirWorks has scaled from MVP to launching their SaaS product offering, at a remarkable pace. AirWorks’ proprietary platform now autonomously converts 2D and 3D aerial data into CAD models within two hours. Their goal is to drive the processing time down to a few minutes. The generated CAD files are available in common formats (.dxf, .dwg. etc.) and are ready to use in standard design software packages such as AutoCAD.

Toward a scalable approach to AI: the importance of human-machine collaboration to raise contextual awareness in autonomous processes

David and Adam realized early on that executing on their vision would come with challenges: for the AI-powered solution to be commercially viable and adopted by customers, it had to provide industry-grade accurate measurements and fit into current workflows.

Needless to say, deep learning has shown impressive results in the field of computer vision and is subject to fast pace continuous improvements. However, these models have not been trained for specific applications such as civil engineering, and to date, can provide correlations based on large amount of data but do not have the necessary contextual understanding to rely entirely upon them. David and Adam concluded early on that human-machine collaboration was needed to provide satisfying level of accuracy and ready-to-use CAD drawings. They moved away from the strict black box approach, towards understanding the civil engineering nature of the work and incorporating several abstractions and structures into their machine learning stack.

To achieve this, the founders set out to build a strong interdisciplinary engineering team with extensive knowledge of land surveying, construction, civil and geospatial engineering, computer vision and deep learning, and software architecture. The founders established a culture in which every employee is aligned and incentivized to achieve the same company milestones. This created unity and commitment within the team from the beginning and fostered organic cross-functional collaboration.

We love to stop by their office and see the camaraderie and collaboration as civil engineers and AI engineers work side by side to improve the accuracy of their algorithms and combine computational thinking and domain expertise into aerial data analysis. “It is vital to communicate with and understand the needs of our customers. That is why we work closely with our team of civil engineers to collect the best possible data so that we can deliver the best possible product to our customers” — says Brian Bongiovanni, Computer Vision Engineer at AirWorks.

What next?

With the AirWorks SaaS platform, ordering CAD drawings with linework of topography and existing conditions for construction and engineering projects, is just a few clicks away. Key benefits for civil engineers and land developers include higher productivity, faster project cycles, increased profitability and better cost planning.

The waitlist for access to the AirWorks autonomous drafting software platform is now officially open! The first 50 customers to join the waitlist get 100 acres of data processed for free.

Join the waitlist or check out their website for the latest info!

Sophie Meralli

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