Drone Surveys Improve Automated Road Construction

November 7, 2016



Automated machine guidance (AMG) links construction equipment with onboard computers that use data from 3-D models and GPS to guide operations. The Oregon Department of Transportation is exploring surveying with unmanned aircraft for construction projects using  an Aibotix Aibot X6 Hexacopter. The hexacopter can fly programmed flight paths autonomously and carry 4.4 pounds of cameras and sensors.

Ron Singh, chief of surveys at ODOT, is using the drone to generate 3-D maps from orthorectified imagery that accounts for topographical variations in the surface of the Earth and the tilt of the drone. Specifically, they produce digital terrain models via structure-from-motion technologies that estimate 3-D structures from multiple, overlapping 2-D images.

“From my perspective, a drone is like a tripod for surveying, only you can place it 200 feet in the air over a particular spot,” Singh said.

Singh brings a unique drone usage skill set and is known to have a very progressive approach towards AMG and drone use. Singh says AMG technology is dramatically improving construction projects in Oregon. “One contractor, K&E Excavating, has invested heavily in AMG,” Singh said. “In 2010, they were only getting a few projects from ODOT, but now they’re getting almost every project there is because they can get their bids lower. They’re coming up with bids lower than our engineers’ estimates.”

How does he do it? Read more on how he's using unmanned systems in Charles Choi's article "Drone Surveys Improve Automated Road Construction" published in InsideUnmannedSystems.com.