Trimble has announced it is collaborating with Australia’s Propeller Aero to distribute that company’s drone-based site survey and analytics technology. We got our first glimpse of Propeller Aero’s system in March at the Trimble booth during ConExpo.
The system uses drones, also known as UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), to survey a jobsite from the air. The drones do this by registering the GPS positions of a series of mats Propller calls “AeroPoints” placed on the ground. Practically speaking, what the Propeller Aero system does is replace the need to ride or walk a site with a GPS rover on a pole and painstakingly record all the coordinates and elevations.
The mats are approximately 18 inches square and can be placed anywhere on the site. They don’t have to be dialed in or placed over known survey points. The mats act as “ground control targets” and have a black and white checkerboard pattern on them makin
g it easy for the UAV overhead to locate and identify them.
The company recommends simply spreading out a dozen or so mats relatively equidistant over the site terrain then launching your UAV. Once airborne over the site the UAV registers the GPS coordinates of the mats and also picks up the elevations and other geospatial location data from the air.
That data is then uploaded to the cloud where construction and survey personnel can analyze and use it to build 2D and 3D models for initial site surveys and progress reports on earthmoving operations or complete as-built maps. The collaboration with Trimble will bring Propeller Aero’s data feeds into the Trimble Connected Site solutions software for visualization, analysis and sharing of data.
Company officials say the time savings of using the Propeller Aero system will be considerable, especially when surveying large sites and places that are difficult to access with a truck or utility vehicle. Multi-acre sites with challenging terrain can be surveyed and mapped in as little time as it takes to distribute the mats and fly the site with the UAV.