Five Steps to Successfully Drone Modeling Your Worksite in 3D

How do you quickly capture every angle, feature, and safety hazard of an extensive worksite like a quarry or civil construction project? More industries are relying on professionals using drone surveying to create 3D models of worksites that optimize workflows and promote safety and sustainability. You need more than just a drone to get the job done right. Reliable ground control points for drones and following proper flight protocols are also key.

You also need the right processing platform to turn all the data you’ve collected into 3D models that will help you accurately measure your worksite, pinpoint safety hazards, measure stockpile volumes, and assess work progress. Want to create useful 3D site maps? It’s easy with some help from the Propeller Aero drone data processing platform.

Here’s what you need to do:

Choose the right drone

Obviously, you can’t create 3D models from drone-collected data without a drone. There are generally two ways to use drones for surveying…post-processing kinematic (PPK) or real-time kinematic (RTK). The most efficient and effective drone surveying process actually combines both methods, like the Propeller PPK all-in-one solution.

An RTK drone captures images in flight and data collected in the air and on the ground is then processed by a proprietary software solution to create a 2D aerial image of the site and a digital terrain model of conditions on the ground. The two are then combined to create an accurate 3D rendering of your site.


Use ground control

All 3D model creation with drones also requires data collected by ground control points. While RTK/PPK technologies provide accurate information gathered from the air, ground accuracy is also important. That’s where ground control points come in.

Propeller’s AeroPoints provide a faster, more cost-effective method for ground control. They contain a built-in GPS that provides accurate positional data that can be compared to the images collected by the drone. By cross-referencing the two sets of data, you can locate each image’s true position on the earth, reducing the survey margin of error from a few meters to a couple centimeters.


Ensure your equipment is ready for flight

Check your remote control batteries, the capacity of your memory card, and always calibrate your camera before you take to the skies. Make sure you find the right balance between shutter speed and drone speed to ensure an appropriate overlap of your photos — about 75% overlap is recommended. Increase the overlap rate in low-visibility conditions or with surfaces lacking distinguishing topographical features.

Fly in fair weather only

The success of a drone survey is dependent on weather — if there’s snow, rain, or excessive clouds or wind, reschedule your survey when the weather has improved. Not only do you risk collecting data that isn’t useful and putting your equipment at risk, you could also be violating FAA regulations. Only fly in clear skies to comply with all line-of-sight laws.

Choose quality 3D drone modeling software

How you process the data collected by drone is just as important as the flight itself—choosing the right processing platform helps you create an accurate 3D map of your site that can be used by all of your project stakeholders.

It’s best to choose an all-in-one processing solution that includes drone and ground control data together. It’s faster, simpler, and more cost effective. Propeller’s processing platform, for example, lets you choose exactly how you want to process your data with industry-focused photogrammetry platforms. Construction, landfill, mining, and aggregates professionals can use the individual features specifically designed for their needs to create valuable 3D maps that promote safety, efficiency, and sustainability at the jobsite.


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