How Superior Construction Leverages Drone Data and Analytics to Scale Operations

| July 7, 2021

Propeller Aero & Trimble

Superior Construction is using Trimble Stratus, Powered by Propeller. Trimble, the global leader in positioning technologies, was an early partner of Propeller. Our teams work closely together to deliver Trimble Stratus survey-grade drone data solutions for the heavy civil industries.

Established in the 1920s, Superior Construction is a 4th generation American builder that has planted roots in Indiana. From schools, post offices, and libraries in the early years to more complex structures in transportation, industrial, and other infrastructure projects, Superior Construction delivers quality work, safely and honestly, nationwide. 

In 2020, the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) selected Superior Construction to handle the repairs and improvements to the I-65 / I-70 North Split interchange in the heart of Indianapolis. The goal of the project is to not only repair deteriorating bridges and upgrade pavement conditions, but also reduce congestion and improve overall safety for those traveling this stretch of road. Specifically, the project will reconfigure the North Split interchange, replace all existing pavement, replace or reconfigure on and off ramps, rehabilitate six bridges, and replace 43 additional bridges.

Indiana Department of Transportation, North Split Project
Photo Credit: Indiana Department of Transportation

Optimizing progress tracking, communication, and operations

For the North Split project, Superior Construction won the bid to design and build the new interchange. To ensure optimal progress tracking, easy communication, and streamlined operations on this large-scale project, the team at Superior Construction leaned on Trimble Stratus Powered by Propeller. 

“For this project with INDOT, we provide aerial photography every two weeks to show our progress; and that’s where Trimble Stratus and Propeller come in,” commented Mark Santucci, Field Engineer, Superior Construction. “We use the drone to collect survey data and then process it through Propeller. We have all the information back and ready to use within a day or two. If there’s an issue with the data, the Propeller team will let us know right away. It’s been a pretty great experience so far.” 

The North Split interchange project started with Trimble Stratus already in Superior Construction’s ecosystem of tools, which proved to be instrumental not only in the design phase, but the build out phase as well. 

“We are almost a year into the project, and we continue to use Trimble Stratus to collect data and share as-built information back to the project designers on a regular basis,” commented Mohammed Siddiqi, PE, Design-Build Coordinator.  “The North Split interchange design itself has multiple components associated with it, including traffic signals, drainage basins, streetlights, fiber optics that feed into the traffic flow networks, and more. The designers leverage the data from Propeller to support their design.” 

Superior Construction North Split Infrastructure Project Progress
Photo Credit: Superior Construction

Reducing team frustration through powerful simplicity

When working on a large-scale project, like the North Split interchange, the sheer number of variables, expectations, and timelines can be daunting. However, the team at Superior Construction has found a way to ease some of these frustrations and concerns by leveraging Trimble Stratus to improve overall efficiency, streamline processes, and offer an easy-to-use and easy-to-understand solution.  

“As engineers and superintendents start seeing the data—I’m sharing it with them as well—they’re seeing how easy it is to maneuver within the site,” Santucci said. “I can add designs to the site and then they can see and compare their bridge design against the existing conditions. It’s really handy in planning phases.” 

As with any project, there are times when changes must be made. For example, there are clearly defined Do Not Disturb Zones associated with the INDOT project to create a boundary between the active worksite and the area(s) intended to be left alone. Superior Construction simply uploaded that information into Trimble Stratus to ensure it is monitored and factored into the design and worksite progress. 

“There’s been a couple of instances where we’ve looked at Do Not Disturb Zones that we’ve loaded on Trimble Stratus and noticed an issue—like a tree in the Do Not Disturb Zone that will end up in the bridge. We can then use that information to let INDOT know about the overlap issue. So, although it is marked as ‘do not disturb,’ we will need to eventually disturb it,” Santucci shared.

With Trimble Stratus, Superior Construction can catch these issues easier and convey that information quicker than traditional survey methods. This means that Superior Construction can remain proactive on the worksite and address concerns or issues before they become big problems or frustrations.   

Superior Construction: North Split Project Progress
Photo Credit: Superior Construction

Improving worksite safety

Safety is a top priority for Superior Construction. Some survey methods can be complex, depending on the site location, available team members, and other factors. When dealing with road construction, that complexity is amplified with busy traffic and congestion. 

“After managing lane closures, diverting traffic, and setting up traffic cones, we can still perform an uninterrupted survey,” Siddiqi said. “We just fly the drone, not putting anyone at risk. Construction safety is important to everyone, and Trimble Stratus helps to address those concerns.”   

Scaling for the future 

Scaling operations to successfully take on more projects, while supporting the needs and safety of the workforce is paramount for this 4th generation construction business. In fact, the company has already seen an increase in the number of design-build projects in just the past decade alone. 

Now, with potential government funding showing promise for an influx of new infrastructure projects, it’s even more important to focus on the future of the business operations and the tools and processes that will support and drive team satisfaction and performance.

“More work is good. It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” Siddiqi commented. “More funding will create more projects, more job opportunities, and more business for us.”

Technology is an important piece to that puzzle, helping to manage the influx of work by streamlining processes, easing frustrations, improving safety, and more.  

“Processing speed, accuracy, and turnaround time has been the biggest difference in the evolution of surveying technology. Now we are able to fly weekly or bi-weekly, which has been a real game changer, especially on big projects like the North Split interchange,” Siddiqi said. 

With Trimble Stratus, “just knowing your data is always up to date and available across the entire team is priceless,” Santucci added.  

Request a demo today and learn how Trimble Stratus Powered by Propeller can help create 3D surfaces and process data faster.

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