How 3D Site Maps Add Value to Your Business

There’s a lot of talk about 3D site models and how they’re going to revolutionize the AEC space once and for all, but rarely do we talk about what the data revolution actually looks like for individual worksites. 

Here we’ll demystify 3D site maps and explain why you should consider incorporating them into your workflow. If you’re new to drone surveying—and how aerial data feeds three-dimensional visualizations—check out this article.

For those of you already familiar with drone-powered visuals, here are the top ways 3D maps add value to your business. 


Track progress against design 

Every worksite is a melting pot. Each worker is only ever interacting with one or two ingredients at a time. When you engage with only a small part, it’s hard to maintain that “big picture” thinking that keeps you connected to the end-goal. 

Design documents have always been that project tether—where to go, where to start, where to end. Typically, progress is measured by weighing the current state against those final designs. Until now, those measurements have largely been the product of guesswork and arbitrary assessments. 

With drone data, we can take progress tracking a step further and assign real value and time stamps to each assessment. When you generate 3D models in the Propeller Platform, you’re viewing your worksite in its current state. 

drone data landfill cell progress

Then, when you layer each flyover over the last, you form a comprehensive timeline illustrating your progress. 

If we add design files to this site data parfait, you can not only see how far you’ve come, but measure how far you have left to go. 

Streamline your reporting 

Growth is an integral part most worksites’ long-term agenda, and growth can’t come until you have the infrastructure to carry out existing processes on a larger scale. One of the ways you become more efficient is through routine, standardized reporting.

With interactive 3D site maps, reporting comes in a variety of forms. The Propeller Platform has reporting templates you can try out, but we get that you have your own unique set of workflows your worksite depends on. That’s why we’ve made it possible to build and customize templates based on your reporting needs.

quantities survey report

Report on inventory, on environmental compliance, on progress, on anything we’ve discussed here, and share those reports across your entire project network. 


Collaborate cross-functionally 

Everyone on site needs some kind of data to do their job correctly and efficiently, but more often than not, that data’s hard to come by. Data silos are arguably one of the most debilitating pain point on worksites today. 

Team collaborating on the worksite

Information lives in a million different places and platforms, and aggregating it to then disseminate is a huge (nearly impossible) undertaking. When you generate 3D site maps with the Propeller Platform you’re giving your worksite data a single hub to live in. 

We call that kind of unified data storage a “single source of truth.” With it, everyone knows where to find the data they need. There’s no question of how far along your project is or how it compares to design documents. 

One-click sharing makes it possible to share  your 3D site maps to foreman, surveyors, property owners—any individual you want to bring into the loop. Collaborating cross-functionally doesn’t have to be difficult. Hyperlinks to downloadable PDFs and CSV reports directly from your 3D site map, simplify collaboration once and for all. 


Monitor environmental compliance

Worksite are held accountable for any negative impact their presence has on the surrounding ecosystem. 

Even inherently damaging industries like landfills and mines can reduce their negative impact by being more strategic in their day-to-day. This means actively monitoring hazardous byproducts, runoff, and the movement of contaminated dirt. 

environmental compliance

Aside from the causing lasting damage, noncompliance comes with hefty fines and stalls progress. Actively working alongside environmental officers to maintain compliance serves everyone’s agenda and keeps your project on track. The only way to be completely transparent is with continual data sharing.  

You can layer, share, and examine your 3D maps to build a complete and unfettered environmental record of everything that happens on site. Not only can you check up on problem areas, but you can also pass that data on to whatever environmental officer you’re working alongside. 

An ongoing, photographic record doesn’t serve or skew any particular agenda and eliminates any grey areas caused by data deficits. 

Here’s an additional resource to check out on how 3D maps are used for environmental recordkeeping. 


Identify safety hazards

On any worksite, the number-one priority is keeping everyone safe and out of harm’s way, but unfortunately, risk on the worksite is inevitable. There’s dangerous equipment, working from high places, and explosives. 

But risk  can be minimized with continuous workflow audits and proper training. The best way to mitigate risk today is with technology. 

safety hazard survey data

Similar to other popular next-gen solutions like the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D site maps deliver the data you need to conduct virtual safety inspections, but without any significant changes to your overhead. 

It’s fair to say that the more data you have, the safer your team can operate. A bird’s-eye view delivers a perspective you could never get at ground level. You see load issues, pinpoint fire hazards, and monitor compliance on both a site-wide and individual employee level. 


Keep disparate teams connected

You have your foreman, VDC managers, surveyors, laborers, engineers, safety officers—the list goes on. Some are working full-time in the field, others entirely in the office, while another group splits their time between the two. 

When casting the wide worksite net, there’s a lot of cracks for data and information to slip through. It doesn’t matter if the office is five steps or 50 miles from the worksite, communication silos are inevitable. 

Of course, project documents exist for this reason. They’re a common reference whenever you’re losing direction or have a question about end goals. The problem is that most of these documents are static in a very dynamic environment. 

In reality, site data should be a living, breathing commodity, something that adapts to progress. This is exactly what 3D site maps do. Every time you survey your worksite with a drone, 3D maps are repopulated with the most recent aerial dataset. 

Yes, it takes a bit of technical know-how to manipulate that  data, but the map itself brings value to every single workflow on site. The up-to-date visuals can be printed and distributed across the site for everyday use and reference. 

Printed maps are the connective thread you need to align communication between your in-field and in-office teams. 


Measure material movement 

When you’re constantly moving material around and manipulating the grade, you only have a couple centimeters of breathing room. If your data’s not capturing that level of accuracy, it’s useless. 

Using a combination of “smart” ground control and automated RTK drone hardware, we’ve found a way to get 1/10ft accuracy every time our customers fly their site. 

stockpile measurement

Once these datasets are uploaded to Propeller and a 3D site map is generated, you can quantify material movement in just a few clicks. 

By material, we mean anything measurable—how much waste was added to a cell since your last survey; how much dirt’s moved from one stockpile to another and how that’s impacted the grade; what volume of material you’ll be able to extract from a particular blast on your mine. 


Conduct virtual walkthroughs 

Like we said before, sometimes all you need to bring things back in focus is a fresh perspective. 3D sitemaps capture your site with an impartiality the human eye can’t.  

Obviously, three-dimensional exploration has the cool factor, but there’s practical application as well. By navigating through your visualization you’ll notice things you never have before and make observations you can translate into operation improvements. 

There’s a tunnel vision that comes with working on the same site every day that’s hard to shake. Physically separating yourself from the site and analyzing it through the computer screen instead helps you stay agile. 


Manage your worksite 

What do you get when you combine all the benefits we just talked about? A total worksite management solution. 

Alone, 3D sitemaps aren’t enough to manage your site, but when you combine those visuals with an interactive toolbox and a continuous data stream, you get a scalable and collaborative platform for the many moving parts on site to come together and realign. 

NX2, one of Propeller’s customers in the construction space, is using 3D site maps for exactly that. They found that the best way to manage a complicated $709.5M highway job is with a connected team. The Propeller Platform is a meeting ground for them. 

Right now, they have 120 people on their team actively engaging with site maps. These users range from surveyors to geotech professionals. 

The moral of the story? 3D sitemaps are only the beginning. Dismantle your data silos and build a worksite ecosystem that’ll last and grow with you moving forward. 

Every day you spend without up-to-date data, is a day you weren’t operating at absolute efficiency, another environmental violation you could have spotted sooner, or an accident that could have been prevented. 


Unlock the power the 3D site maps. Let’s talk about how they’d make life easier on your worksite. 


Keep reading:

Hensel Phelps Is Using Propeller to Track Earthwork, Share Data on Hawaii State Hospital Build
How Drone and Point Cloud Data Powers 3D Site Models
Drones Changing The Game For Topographic Surveying

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