Propeller Aero & Trimble
RIPA & Associates 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.
Founded in 1998, RIPA & Associates is a civil and utility construction services company located in Central Florida and has been consistently ranked in the Top 100 Private Companies in the Tampa Bay area. Today, RIPA has more than 900 employees and has completed approximately 1,000 jobs including commercial, residential, industrial and public sector construction projects of all sizes.
RIPA utilizes technology across their company, from machine control to drone-based surveying, to gather and share the information they need to be successful. They believe in providing their people with the best tools available to perform their jobs, yet making sure that it’s the right tool for the right reason.
Don Campbell, a senior manager at RIPA, has been with the company for nearly seven years and in the construction industry for more than 20. He manages RIPA’s purchasing department, IT department, field technology department while also managing projects. “We see ourselves more on the cutting edge of technology,” Don shared. “We run smart and lean, and everyone here feels like they are an owner and are empowered to make decisions. But we also manage our dollars carefully and make the right decisions.”
About three years ago Don says they observed drone technology coming to the forefront as an alternative to aerial photography for job sites. For RIPA, aerial photography couldn’t effectively answer their questions about jobsite measuring and reporting, quality control, and the overall ‘big picture.’
“We would have our projects flown on a once-a-month basis from an aerial perspective and would get four or five hi-res photos of a project flown by an airplane,” Don commented. “The information was interesting, but not really very actionable. It was more for obtaining an overall project status that could be used from a marketing perspective.”
Moving from Aerial Photography into the Drone Space
Don discovered that, with a drone program, RIPA could better control their flight schedule and fly their sites more often (once a week). Even though they were new to drones, they could get more accurate information about their projects on a more real-time basis and could take appropriate actions to address any issues that arose on their job sites.
As Don and RIPA learned more about drone surveying and gained more experience, they were able to understand the different dynamics of having a drone department, and after a few growing pains, they decided to adopt Trimble Stratus Powered by Propeller.
“After using [Trimble Stratus] for a while and the access we had to the Propeller support team, drone surveying became much more valuable for our business,” Don shared. “There was better responsiveness to our requests and better quality control, and the additional tools within the platform benefited all of our users and project stakeholders. In a manner of speaking, our drone program has become another spice that goes into our company recipe to give it the final flavor.”
Use Cases across the Company
RIPA’s project managers were the initial users of Trimble Stratus. As the company found new uses for the drone survey data it obtained, their user base expanded to their estimators, field superintendents, and NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System)/SWPPP (Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan) inspectors. Now, their earthworks superintendent can better understand the production yield moving dirt from a pond at a given rate and time. Their environmental department uses the platform to monitor if fencing is down, if dirt is in the wrong place, or a pond has washed out. Purchasing uses the drone technology to verify if pipe loads have been delivered by monitoring the site from the air with the accurate tools the platform provides.
“We trained our people how to use [Trimble Stratus] beyond just an aerial photo platform and more as a measurement tool and QC platform,” Don explained. “Continuing that education throughout our organization, we now have a whole spectrum of users from superintendents to lead foreman to less tech-savy users. Our project managers have become the power users with the platform, using it on a regular basis to track flight-by-flight comparisons for monitoring production. We also now have a full support system for our drone program with two full-time pilots, a 3D modeler and a support person who helps with the uploads, quality control, scheduling.”
RIPA highly values the new features added to the platform. Don stated that the biggest positives about Trimble Stratus’s support system are the targeted five-minute training videos and documentation. “If someone at our company wants to learn how to measure a stockpile, they can do it by watching a five-minute video and reading the content that goes along with it,” Don added. “It’s digestible and very appropriate for our users. All different groups at RIPA are able to easily use the data and collaborate with one another.”
A Great Timesaver
RIPA relies on Trimble Stratus because it allows them to be more efficient with their time by not having to depend on constant visits to and from the job site. Even their vice president uses the platform to manage his projects. “Our time can be better spent looking at the drone footage and then coordinating with our team members who need to act on it,” Don said. “That’s the biggest benefit that we’ve gotten out of it. Also, there isn’t a long lag time between when we upload and then receive our data. Within the couple days when we get our analysis back, the site hasn’t changed that much, so we know we’re getting an accurate picture.”
Don says RIPA has fully embraced the technology provided by Trimble Stratus, and it has allowed them to be more productive in their construction business by working more efficiently.