The Weekly is STREAMING now. Join us at HorizonTV

Quadcopters save project team $15K in warranty work

On a recent trip to see what technology Todd Wynne and the rest of the team at Rogers-O’Brien Construction have been tinkering with, I had a chance to experience firsthand which new hardware innovations will one day be applied in the AEC space. 

Sponsored content
December 16, 2014 |
Sasha Reed

On a recent trip to see what technology Todd Wynne and the rest of the team at Rogers-O’Brien Construction (RO) have been tinkering with, I had a chance to experience firsthand which new hardware innovations will one day be applied in the AEC space

One of the “future” technologies being used today is showing some promise and already has a definable ROI. Quadcopters have taken the AEC space by storm. For around $1,500, this visualization aid has many applications for gathering and communicating jobsite information. 

Rogers-O’Brien is currently testing the use of quadcopters for use in weekly site reporting. With the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) still trying to figure out how to best regulate small “hobby” and “prosumer” users, safety is the number one priority.  

Blake Potts, Wynne’s colleague, is overseeing the implementation and use of these aerial devices. He has even begun to assemble a comprehensive flight manual, which gets loaded onto iPads with form field PDFs for easy data entry. These PDFs include pre-flight checklists to document wind speed and weather prior to takeoff. A flight plan is also required, which takes into account cranes and other potential obstacles.



Progress is being made with the FAA’s acceptance of drones for commercial use on construction sites. Just this week, the FAA granted Trimble Navigation Limited, VDOS Global, Clayco, and Woolpert, along with seven film and video production companies, regulatory exemptions to fly drones in national airspace.

According to a recent article in Forbes, the exemptions were granted in accordance to Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act. The application process is lengthy and requires that firms demonstrate that their use of the drones will not pose a threat to national airspace or national security. The article also states that to date the agency has received 167 requests for exemptions from commercial entities.  

This is a big win for firms like Rogers-O’Brien, who have already begun to see major benefits returning real value for the innovation team. The $1,500 investment pays for itself within a few flights, depending on the mission.  

One particular mission saved the project over $15,000 in warranty work. A 13-story building was experiencing some precast leaking. Normally, in order to inspect the area, they would have had to erect scaffolding or suspend an inspector over the building edge to access the area and take photos for the risk manager.  

Based on the size of the inspection area, they would have to erect, tear down and re-erect scaffolding. This job that would have taken over four days and cost them $1,500 for every 15 feet moved was done in a one-hour quadcopter flight.  



The video and images taken were shared with the risk manager, who determined the best way to solve the issue, saving them time and thousands of dollars in warranty work.   

The drones are primarily being used for aerial inspection and progress photos today, but Potts sees potential for live feeds to the office, with photogrammetry or laser scanning from photographs collected during flight. Putting that theory to the test, the RO team has begun using their quadcopter for Reality Capture. Using visualization software called Pix4D, they’re able to turn photos into models that document existing conditions, as-builts, visualization, and 3D printing. Wynne says it’s like laser scanning with photos.

In my last blog, I shared how the RO team was leveraging FLIR, a thermal technology device for the iPhone, to troubleshoot HVAC and plumbing issues in the field. Taking that idea a step further, the team designed, built and manufactured their own custom mount using a 3D printer. They’ve combined UAV technology (DJI Phantom Quadcopter), 3D printing, and the FLIR thermal camera to conduct roof inspections. The alpha version of this system was successfully flown in October of this year with plans to refine the system further in 2015.  

Since starting this project in 2014, the company to date has utilized 6 quadcopters, taken over 14,000 photos and captured 331 movies. The team believes this technology will allow owners in the future to keep eyes on their job site from anywhere in the world. 

Sasha Reed | StrXur by Bluebeam
Bluebeam, Inc.
Vice President of Strategic Development

As Vice President of Strategic Development at Bluebeam, Inc., Sasha Reed collaborates with leaders in the architecture, engineering and construction industry to guide Bluebeam’s technology, partnerships and long-term goals. She joined Bluebeam in 2007 and co-created the Concierge Approach, a distinctly branded process of customer engagement, product feedback and solution delivery to which much of Bluebeam’s success is attributed, and which today is replicated at every organizational level.

Sasha is known industry-wide as a “conversation facilitator,” creating platforms for exchanges necessary to digitally advance the industry, including the BD+C Magazine Digital COM Blog, which she authors and manages. She’s been a featured presenter at numerous national and international conferences, including the 2014 Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA), Federal Project Delivery Symposium and NTI Danish BIM Conference. Sasha also co-chairs the Construction PDF Coalition, a grassroots effort to provide a common industry framework from which to create and maintain construction PDF documents, serves on the City College of San Francisco BIM Industry Council, and is Advisor to the Board of Direction for the National Institute of Building Sciences BuildingSMART Alliance.

Related Blogs

December 15, 2017 | StrXur by Bluebeam

Looking beyond today’s constraints to the possibility of what “could be” is a key characteristic of those d...

November 30, 2017 | BIM and Information Technology | StrXur by Bluebeam

New York’s Tappan Zee Bridge first opened to traffic in 1955.

4 people speaking on a panel
September 19, 2017 | BIM and Information Technology | StrXur by Bluebeam

In this four-part series, Bluebeam VP Sasha Reed sat down with industry experts to examine the need for def...

A hospital under construction
August 28, 2017 | Healthcare Facilities | StrXur by Bluebeam

McCarthy will continue to lean on Bluebeam solutions to help solve the most critical issues, and to keep th...

An exterior shot of the Beijing National Stadium
August 17, 2017 | Building Materials | StrXur by Bluebeam

Lighter than glass and 100% recyclable, one material takes center stage in the future of building.

Rendering of a Matrix-style theater
August 02, 2017 | Architects | StrXur by Bluebeam

An Australian Home Theater Company is out to prove that the easier you can see it, the easier you can sell...

July 19, 2017 | Architects | StrXur by Bluebeam

Our goal is to present unique perspectives you may not be able to find anywhere else.  

July 13, 2017 | Accelerate Live! | StrXur by Bluebeam

From my perspective, what separates organizations thriving in the digital revolution from those who are not...

March 15, 2017 | StrXur by Bluebeam

Who is succeeding, and on what terms? And what will it take for everyone to experience the benefits of that...

October 04, 2016 | Building Team | StrXur by Bluebeam

As the construction industry bounces back from the Great Recession, an entirely new class of tech-savvy con...

Overlay Init

Your card will be charged: 0