Drone technology is a groundbreaking survey tool, but we think it sometimes steals the limelight away from photogrammetry itself. The real magic occurs post-processing, where you have freedom to explore and engage with your site in ways you never could from the ground.
For photogrammetry processing and analytics software programs like Propeller, we get a lot of questions about capabilities on the road to commitment. A lot of, “What exactly does Propeller get me? What’s the ROI?”
Want the short answer? Here are ten things the Propeller Platform delivers post-survey:
- 24-hour processing
- Cloud-based access
- 3D site model
- Progress tracking
- Risk assessment
- Interactive toolbox
- Conflict resolution
- Cross-team collaboration
- Easy export to PDF or CSV
- Worksite management platform
We’re going to dive into each item individually. By the time we’re done, you’ll know exactly what Propeller gets you after you fly and an idea of how your worksite can benefit from a little post-processing analysis.
Feel free to jump around to the features that interest you the most.
We’ve heard the nightmarish processing stories—days going by; computers tied up, only to crash at the last minute; restarting the whole charade.
Earthwork is a complex beast because each subsequent stage depends on the success of the one before it. Not only does planning your whole day around processing displace valuable bandwidth, but it also complicates project timelines.
The time-suck of unreliable processing has plagued surveyors for too long, and that’s why we’re saying goodbye to unknowns altogether. You should be able to lean on your processing provider for a static turnaround time.
If you’re certain processing will take a fixed amount of time, you’ll know exactly how long until you can relay your flyover data to everyone who matters—clients, workers, surveyors all stay informed.
Propeller Platform users are processing in a fraction of the time they were before using the platform, and they can work on multiple surveys a once, from wherever they are.
Imagine this scenario: you’ve finished your flight, you have all the aerial data you need, and you’re far from your home-base desktop computer in the middle of nowhere.
Do you want to wait for two days until you’re back in the office to process your data? Or, do you want to connect to your site WiFi or hotspot, log on to a portal, and start processing right then and there?
With the cloud-based Propeller Platform, you can upload from anywhere with connectivity. All you have to do is log in to your Propeller portal; drag and drop your flight data into your browser; select your preferred coordinate reference system; and go.
It’s projected that 60% of workloads will be running on a hosted cloud service in 2019, a pretty significant shift from the 45% of workloads that were cloud-hosted in 2018. It’s easy, it’s flexible, and it’s taking the world by storm.
Drones are not new in the realm of surveying, but they’ve become increasingly affordable, and, therefore, increasingly accessible.
During a flyover, drones are snapping images of your site from above, geotagging the images with location data.
When you upload all those images together to the Propeller Platform, what you get is a high-resolution map of your site.
Photogrammetry, the science of measuring from a series of images, is the engine that allows the Propeller machine to run. Your drone-powered aerial data is the fuel we feed the engine. All your images are layered and stitched together and blanketed over topographical renderings to mimic the exact grade of your site.
You can make arbitrary observations from 3D models—a misplaced machine, hazardous conditions, other things you can only spot from a bird’s-eye view. But more importantly, you can actively engage with your site from afar and make real-world measurements to expedite processes happening on the ground.
The interactivity takes a variety of forms that we’ll explore throughout this article. In the meantime, here’s a simple five-step guide on creating 3D drone models that you may want to check out.
Because drones help you increase survey frequency, you wind up with a comprehensive visual record of on-site happenings. In the Propeller Platform, you can layer your aerial data to create an all-seeing time lapse. A single dataset can also be layered against design plans to determine how far you’ve come, and how far you have left to go.
After you fly and upload your data for processing, you can analyze design surfaces and linework to gauge how quickly you’re progressing toward the final grade. A set of intuitive tools, like Progress to Design View, help you assess overall site productivity to guide your decision-making moving forward.
If you choose to fly before you dig, when development is in its infancy, you can integrate visuals into the planning process. This is just one of the ways our friends over at Haydon Materials, a quarry and aggregates company, apply their 3D visuals.
“We’ll fly an entire site, put a layout on it, and show our operations managers how to approach the mine and which direction to go,” explained Haydon.
While on the surface, they’re using Propeller to plan jobs more effectively, they’re inadvertently keeping everyone informed to reduce error and tame conflicting expectations.
Naturally, with new visibility comes new perspective. Apart from tracking progress, you’re also pinpointing safety risks and constantly assessing risk. Each year, there are roughly 150,000 construction site accidents that result in injury.
You have to wonder how many of those could have been prevented with the objective lens 3D site models offer up. Using an aerial vantage point, you’re able to actively assess risk and clean up problem areas before an accident occurs.
Too often, worksites get caught in a retroactive state, implementing processes and preventative measures after an incident happens to decrease the opportunity for recurrence.
With continuous self-auditing, you can build a proactive environment where everyone does their jobs safely.
Exploring your worksite in 3D is interesting, but there’s so much more beneath the surface, There’s actionable data to be had that makes your day-to-day easier and more efficient. This is how ROI funnels in.
The Propeller Platform comes locked and loaded with an industry-relevant toolbox. Post-survey, you’re not just receiving a aerially captured replica of your site, you’re gaining a whole new layer of visibility into your material movement.
In the platform, you can edit terrain to remove inaccuracies or obstructions if you’re dealing with thick vegetation or foilage—correcting the visual appearance to breach a new level of layer of accuracy.
Once you’ve removed all the features diluting your vantage point, it’s time to measure your material movement. In just a few clicks, you’ll be well on your way to stockpile, blast, or compaction analysis.
On-screen calculators and analysis tools make measuring volumes, surface areas, road grades, elevations, cross-sections, and cut/fill a piece of cake.
Almost always, disputes arise from ambiguity. Someone fails to relay a critical piece of information and the effects trickle down through the worksite network.
Of course, there’s other common instigators outside of miscommunication—noncompliance, unrealistic (sometimes impossible) expectations, insufficient documentation, and so on.
There’s a trickle-down quality to the benefits of 3D drone-powered renderings. If you can track site progress between flyovers and tangibly communicate that progress with the individuals who care, then project-related disputes will occur less frequently—less ambiguity, fewer gray areas.
For example, if there’s a question of where a water line should go or how much dirt you’ve excavated, you have all that information a resolution demands at your fingertips. Blount Contracting uses the cross-section comparison tool for disputes like this.
Blount visually pinpoints problems with client designs and plans by pulling up the cross-sectional view. “Instead of printing something, you can actually show them, ‘this is what your site looks like’ and ‘this is what it did look like’ and ‘this is where we’re at’,” said Nick Blount.
So, not only are Propeller customers using 3D visuals to plan development and then compare work completed against those plans to track progress, but also to resolve conflicts. Keeping a visual ledger removes subjectivity from the equation and replaces it with objectivity, while increasing visibility on all dimensions of your site.
Most worksites are a mosaic of many roles. Engineers are perfecting design documents, foremen are managing their teams, environmental entities are operating in the background, and tradesman are waiting to execute their niche requirements.
The measurements and progress reports Propeller helps generate serve each and every one of those roles in one way or another. Administrators have the capacity to invite collaborators to their site portals and add as many users as necessary. You can also choose the level of interaction for each user—view-only or editing rights.
Rather than building silos, you can keep central lines of communication open by using Propeller as a common meeting ground for all teams.
The team effort doesn’t stop there. You’re also able to export your reports and measurements from your visual ledger or share them directly through the Platform. As collaboration and cross-team communication becomes more fluid, the window for the unexpected (and un-welcomed) blips shrinks.
With Propeller, worksites are more dynamic and informed than ever before. For more information on why reporting and collaboration matters on-site, give this article a read.
All of Propeller’s reports export to PDF or CSV in just two clicks. In the upper right-hand side of the site menu bar, you’ll find the Export drop-down menu.
From there, users are given two options. Once you choose one, the report downloads in a few seconds to your Downloads folder.
It’s completely up to you who you want to share these documents with. Each of our customers leverage their reports in a unique way.
A successful project depends on consistently getting the right (accurate and up-to-date) information in front of the right people. With easy, quick exports, this is no longer a pain point.
Each time you finish processing your flyover, you can export and share progress with your team in a matter of minutes.
If you haven’t had the ah-ha moment yet, that’s okay. It’s a big decision, and every big decision should be coupled with a clear path to financial or operational gains.
We’ve deconstructed the Propeller Platform into its individual features, but its strength (much like a worksite) is a sum total of all those parts.
When we add up each of the nine things above and consider how they function together, what we get is a one-stop-shop worksite management platform. Propeller is an integrated approach to managing your progress, your project, and your people.
We can tell you again and again why the Propeller Platform is so much more than simple stockpile measurements, or how it brings all the moving parts together to revolutionize worksite management, but we think that’s a story best told by customers just like you.
All of our customers tell us a similar story—tight deadlines debilitated by data gaps, unreliable processing, disparate teams with communication silos. And then, they tell us about what life’s like after making the leap to Propeller.
It usually goes like this: “If I were on a jobsite where we didn’t have Propeller, it’d be a lot less convenient and it’d take a lot more time to do things. The bird’s-eye view gives you a really good perspective of what’s on the jobsite [ . . .] and it gives you a perspective that you wouldn’t have if you were standing on the jobsite looking at things,” according to Field Engineer, Maggie Porter, at Hensel Phelps.
The best thing Propeller gets you at the end of your survey is the freedom to leverage the in-platform tools beyond their surface-value. Propeller is a worksite management tool that molds to you.