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A new image-capturing platform mediates drone and cloud technologies

3DRobotics, Autodesk, and Sony launch Site Scan to speed the process of making models from field data.

March 09, 2016 |

A construction specialist programs the flight path of a drone using a Sony tablet that's part of a Site Scan platform that Sony, 3DRobotics, and Autodesk have introduced to make using image-capture data from the field easier with modeling and design software easier. Image courtesy 3DRobotics

Drone maker 3DRobotics (3DR) has teamed with Autodesk and Sony to launch Site Scan, an aerial analytics platform for use by field professionals to inspect, survey, and scan jobsites and land masses, and deliver image-capture data via the cloud for quicker processing and 3D modeling.

Keith Bigelow, a VP at 3DR’s Enterprise division, tells BD+C that for the past year his company has worked with the reality-capture team at Autodesk to understand how a product like Site Scan would need to perform in order produce high-resolution images that could be processed by modeling tools “that AEC customers are using every day.”

The resulting package includes a Solo drone that can be programmed to fly over a designated area without pilot assistance; a Sony Xperia Z4 tablet with a pre-installed Site Scan software; a Sony UMC-R10C or GoPro Hero4 Black camera equipped with lenses for inspection and 2D and 3D mapping; unlimited storage in 3DR’s cloud; and unlimited processing and publishing credits with Autodesk’s cloud, known as FORGE.

The drone’s flight time is about 20 minutes per battery, and is best suited for inspecting and scanning sites that are between two and 160 acres, says Bigelow.

A tablet with the Site Scan app can be used to manage the flight and image collection. (The tablet also runs Google Earth, which is used to program the drone’s flight path.)

Site Scan’s Survey mode captures and creates high-resolution maps and digital elevation models, while its Scan mode captures and creates 3D models. These reality data—such as 3D point cloud, 2D orthographic views, and 3D mesh—can be integrated into popular professional design and engineering platforms, including many of Autodesk’s products.

3DR is an early adopter of the FORGE platform, leveraging the ReCap Photo Web API. “Capture technology is rapidly transforming the way people collect information and make insightful decisions in the field,” says Amar Hanspal, SVP of Products at Autodesk.

The Site Scan package, which includes four batteries and a charger, will be available in June for $4,999, plus a monthly service fee of $499 that covers the drone and tablet license, cloud access, and technical support.

Bigelow says AEC firms are Site Scan’s primary targets, and he foresees this platform being helpful to inform design and construction decisions for a host of different building projects.

He also points out Site Scan will be available around the time that the Federal Aviation Administration issues its new rules for commercial drone use, which are expected to allow a person to fly a drone without a pilot’s license as long as he or she is certified by passing a written test that demonstrates familiarity with FAA’s UAV education booklet.


A high-resolution image of a construction site, captured by a camera-equipped drone that is part of the Site Scan platform. Image: 3DRobotics


A 3D model of a land site created from point-cloud data processed through Site Scan's software. Image: 3DRobotics


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