Six Road Design Tools That’ll Lighten Your Load

Road planning is a juggling act. You’re balancing job requirements and physical limitations, while keeping all other site operations moving forward at the same time. Let’s dive into Propeller tools that make the road design process a whole lot easier. 

Whether you’re planning a highway redevelopment job or starting to build out the design for a completely new road, earth movement is inevitable. You’re going to be moving dirt from one spot to another to fix the grade and establish stable base layers to support the finished surface. 

Cutting, excavating, and clearing—these things can be done much quicker with the help of some really intuitive tools that make progress tracking a breeze. 

Contrary to popular belief, photogrammetry brings value to 80% of the road job workflow, and it’s not a matter of replacing laser scanners. It’s about tracking progress, tracking quantities, and doing QA throughout subgrade development.


DXF Uploads 

dxf road design gif

Your original design is arguably the most essential piece of the roadwork puzzle, the beacon that guides you back if you stray during development. It’s the way we understand how far we’ve come and how far we have left to go. 

Propeller customers upload their DXF files to keep them in check at every stage in their road work job. As they’re flattening, cutting, and adding material, they’re pulling up the DXF and laying it over their most recent flyover to make observations about progress. 

When you’re working on a road that’s 15 miles long, you’re only ever interacting with a small section, making it easy to lose sight of the big picture. 

What you see in Propeller, is quite literally the big picture and you can access it whenever you want. You can blanket DXF files over your terrain to experience the finished grade in 3D. Viewing your design from a bird’s-eye view and with your exact elevation prevents tunnel-vision.



road job linework gif

We get photogrammetry can’t  add much value to the paving process. You need a level of accuracy greater than 1/10ft when you’re laying asphalt, which drone data isn’t fit for. 

The thing is, the hardest part of a road job happens pre-paving. Greater visibility into how those subgrade is progressing keeps your team informed, your client happy, and regulations met. 

Not only can you upload all your design files to Propeller, but you can also add additional linework over your survey images. Having a wireframe prevents arbitrary, one-off measurements and introduces a shared context to keep everyone on the same page about where certain boundaries are. 

Typically, our customers add linework every 10–20 meters, so they can reference one particular section and when it’s referenced, everyone refers to the same section. There’s a lot of useful boundaries outside of that—center lines, alignment markings, curvature, etc.—all items you can communicate through linework. 

In the image above, you can see exactly how linework appears in the Propeller Platform, layered over a customer’s most recent survey imagery. 


Cross-Section Comparisons

cross section gif

Viewing your site in 3D adds a layer of tangibility to an end goal that’s only ever existed in design documents, but it doesn’t do anything to quantify progress made. 

This is where cross-section comparisons come in. As you can see above, users take the cross-section tool, drag is across the section of the road they’d like to examine and the Platform generates a grade spectrum. Here’s where you’re given accurate metrics on how far you are from design. 

Once you know how far off you are, you can go back to revise, bringing in more dirt, taking some away, whatever’s necessary to bring the grade up to design level. 

For quick, easy calculations, all linework converts to a measurement in just a few clicks. When you’re ready to export your measurements, you scroll through and check off the ones you want to report on, and the Platform generates a comprehensive progress report to share with everyone who needs it. 

The reporting gets as specific as you need it to. Since linework compartmentalizes your project into subsections, you can compare sections against one another. 


Line Markers to Polyline

line markers gif

With Propeller, you easily convert line markers to polylines so that the road design wireframe is more visually cohesive and easier to interpret. From there, you can add specific, polyline-based measurements to your arsenal. 

Once you have a set of measurements that make sense for you and help you do your job more efficiently, you can save those measurements, and copy them onto each new data set. This way all of your data remains up-to-date with your most recent flyover. 



cut/fill gif

No piece of land is road-ready. Maybe you were commissioned to wind a road up a mountain side that hasn’t been prepped for development. In that case, for most of the job, you’re blasting, you’re excavating, and you’re finding a way to make that land secure enough for civil traffic. 

Download cut and fill calculations in drone surveying guide

Rather than leaving cut and fill measurements up to guesswork, we have a way for you to know exactly how much dirt you need to fill a particular area or adjust a certain grade. 

All cut/fill measurements are exportable, as well, so if you’re in the field without connectivity, you have them with you. Check out this article for more information on cut and fill calculations. 


Haul Road Analysis 

haul road analysis gif

If you had to choose one road tool not like the rest of this bunch, it’d be this one. 

Haul road analysis comes into play when you’re hauling heavy loads in and out all day long—gravel, stone, waste, what have you—or if you’re frequently driving heavy equipment across site. 

All of that traffic compiles into a pretty hefty outbound fuel cost that most earthwork operations are interested in reducing. 

Using the haul road analysis, worksites of all kinds monitor slope to maximize fuel efficiency. 


The Photogrammetry Misconception 

With road jobs, photogrammetry is your insurance policy—a hard, transparent record of each project phase to make sure everyone’s hitting on the right things. 

Still curious about other ways contractors are using Propeller for road development? Give this article a try. You’ll find the benefits extend beyond these six tools. 

Using Propeller, you have a means of visually tracking progress down to the 1/10ft and quickly making quantifiable observations about your material movement. These quantities keep your project moving along all the way up until paving. 

So, yes, photogrammetry does bring value to the road development equation. With 3D visuals of your site, you’re managing everything up until subgrade the way you’ve always wished you could—with quick quantities to share with all the right people. 


Ready to get quick, actionable measurements that’ll make your next road job easier? Let’s talk.  


Keep reading:

Five Ways to Use DXF Files on a Worksite That You Might Not Know About
Calculating Cut and Fill Quantities On Your Construction Site
10 Ways Drone Data and Earthwork Software Can Make Your Next Project a Success

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