Here’s How Engineers Are Using 3D Construction Site Surveys to Work Smarter

While the construction industry has grown 2.3% in the last five years, it remains one of the least digitized sectors in the world, second only to agriculture. This under-digitization affects workers at every level, from operator to engineer to manager.

All of this and more has led to the industry’s $1.6T productivity gap. But new technologies like commercial drones, machine automation, and site data visualization software have the potential to close that gap and bring the industry fully into the digital age.

That said, for many people on the jobsite, the future of data is already here. They’re using new tools in the field and in the office. The only question is, how?

drone data cross sections on construction site


As we capture more and more data, how are people actually using it?

While the capture methods for site data vary, many companies use commercial drones, traditional surveying equipment, and/or autonomous machines to do work and gather data.

What we’ll be focusing on here is how that data is used by engineers to communicate with others on site and get their work done more efficiently.


How every level of a jobsite uses site data

After interviewing a number of current Propeller or Trimble Stratus users, a few key themes popped up in how they use drone surveying and visualization platforms in their work.

  • More efficient data capture
  • Smoother interdepartmental data sharing
  • Seamless team and company collaboration
  • The best ways to train others on using new software
  • Future trends in the construction industry

We also found that often the first people to use a new tool like the Propeller Platform are a part of a company’s survey team. This seemed to be because data visualization was built upon photogrammetric drone surveying, traditionally the domain of the surveyor.

Supervisor using laptop at construction site on sunny day


Engineers streamline design changes with direct data access

One of the biggest challenges for engineers on any project is getting data fast enough from on-the-ground conditions to make changes to designs.

Browser-based survey data platforms allows for faster access to the data engineers need. Because it’s hosted online and not downloaded onto a desktop, they can access up-to-date site data from anywhere.

Putting the power of data into engineers’ hands

For example, engineers on a project with Fletcher Construction in New Zealand need update cross-sections fairly often. With previous technological capabilities, the survey team had to supply cross-sections every time. Administrative tasks like these wasted time for both parties.

Photogrammetry for drone surveying on worksite

“Being able to check what’s actually out there through the platform saves them site visits,” said Survey Manager Mike Cutfield at Fletcher Construction.

Access to Propeller, allows engineers to measure any cross-section in just a few clicks. The team estimates putting this power directly into the engineers’ hands has saved 10 hours a week for the survey team alone.

Closing administrative gaps like these helps both teams increase productivity and put that time to significantly better use.


Improving your day-to-day work through digital transformation can start small

Companies big and small face pushback from different sources on proof-of-concept to scalability. The good news is that closing that larger productivity gap by improving the productivity of your own job is not an all-or-nothing situation. You can start small.

ppk drone surveying for construction

Companies of all sizes start increasing their own productivity with new technology, including:

  • Using a PPK drone surveying solution like Propeller PPK to reduce a surveyor’s time in the field, freeing them up for other work.
  • Using a service to process survey data and provide up-to-date surfaces, reducing the time spent processing in-house, sometimes by days.
  • Using machine control to turn a mediocre operator into an excellent one by giving them real-time feedback to ensure they’re on grade.
  • Using a data visualization and analytics platform like Propeller to store all your site data in one place, simplifying sharing.
  • Using Propeller to model site data in 3D, creating a virtual reality or video-game look for design surfaces, cut/fill volumes, elevations, and more. An accurate picture is worth a thousand spreadsheets.


Want to learn more about how everyone on a jobsite is using up-to-date data to make their work easier and more efficient? Download our new ebook: From Surveyor to Home Office: How Up-to-Date Construction Data is Improving Worksite Operations.


From Surveyor to Home Office eBook


Read more like this:

Use Propeller and Drone Surveying for Smarter Pre-bid Topos
3cm Landfill Liner Breach Detected with Accurate As-Builts, Drone Data Visualization
Legend Engineering Uses Propeller to Save Crew Time, Communicate with Clients as Part of Komatsu Smart Construction Initiative

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