How Steax transformed efficiency with drone surveying: A calculated investment for big gains

Steax uses Trimble® Stratus Software, Powered by Propeller. Trimble, the global leader in positioning technologies, works closely with Propeller to deliver efficient, drone survey data solutions for the construction industry using Trimble Stratus.

Steax is an earthworks surveying and project management company founded in 2021 by Robin Stenström. As a building engineer with over seven years of experience, Robin saw a distinct industry-wide need for improved efficiency. 

“I knew I could help municipal clients and earthwork contractors avoid unnecessary work,” he said. So he struck out on his own and started his own company Steax.

For a very small business like Steax, investing in a drone survey workflow came with significant risk. The licensing cost represented about 10% of their annual revenue, but the gamble has paid off significantly. Read on to learn how Steax’s investment in Trimble Stratus, powered by Propeller, has transformed the company’s efficiency and project outcomes, from faster surveys to seamless client collaboration.

The problem: Merging designs with existing infrastructure

In his work with municipal clients, it didn’t take Robin long to see that traditional surveying techniques often fell short when integrating new plans with existing infrastructure. “When someone else is doing the planning and you have to create around existing infrastructure, things don’t always go together smoothly,” he told us.

With a GNSS receiver in tow, Robin faced several challenges that hindered his overall efficiency:

  • Time-consuming surveys: Traditional surveys often took days to complete, which was too slow for projects requiring quick access to accurate data.
  • Handling different surface types: Merging new plans for construction with existing site conditions was cumbersome and error-prone.
  • Limited visibility: Without a centralized platform to view and share survey data, Robin’s workflows were less effective than he wanted them to be.

When the city of Raseborg asked Robin to help with some road planning projects, he knew he needed a better solution. 

“I’m always interested in new and exciting technologies. That’s why I got into Trimble Stratus.” 

The solution: Fast and easy 3D modeling with direct client access

Before implementing Trimble Stratus, Robin had no experience with drone surveying. “I hadn’t even owned a drone,” he said.

For a very small business like Steax, investing in Trimble Stratus came with significant risk. The licensing cost represented about 10% of Robin’s annual revenue, but his gamble has paid off significantly. “It’s been a big success,” Robin said.

A harbor renovation project for the city of Raseborg presented an early win. Project teams needed a way to verify the volume of clay that was dug out of the harbor. They also needed to know how much space was left on their deposit site before it filled. 

Using Trimble Stratus, Robin helped the city move the heavy harbor clay effectively while ensuring billing accuracy. He’s flown many surveys for them since.

Steax’s favorite features and workflows:

  • Comparison to designs: Robin can upload design files to Trimble Stratus and compare them to drone surveys. Where comparing as-builts with new designs was once a painful process, Trimble Stratus provides a georeferenced picture of the area, including elevations. “With Trimble Stratus, we can join the new with the existing quite easily,” Robin said.
  • Direct client access: Steax’s clients get direct access to their site data so they can view, measure, and download it whenever they want. “Trimble Stratus is really easy to use, so they can guide themselves around the platform easily,” he told us. 
  • Geotagged media: Clients can upload photos to specific georeferenced points on the 3D map, allowing everyone to see exactly where images were captured.
  • Accurate measurements: Robin can make accurate measurements within the map without having to export a point cloud and analyze it in another program, saving valuable time.
  • Cold-weather flights: The DJI drone Robin flies performs well in Finland’s harsh winter conditions. He’s flown in temperatures as low as -20 Celsius without any performance issues.

“Trimble Stratus is great in so many ways. Just go for it and try it for yourself! Every client has different needs, and there’s something for everyone.”

Results that speak for themselves

For a one-man operation like Steax, the time Robin saves with Trimble Stratus has been a game-changer. Today, he can survey a ten-hectare site in ten minutes, where traditional surveys once took hours or even days to complete. 

“You get so much data in ten minutes that you could never get with traditional surveying,” Robin said.

On one pipeline infrastructure project, Robin used Trimble Stratus to identify the wells and pipeline covers on the roads. “With traditional surveying, that would not have been possible,” he said. “But after flying, we just adjusted those points using Trimble Stratus images and updated the pipeline cover right in Trimble Stratus.”

The benefits of improved visibility and collaboration even have a downstream impact on Steax’s clients, some of whom share 3D maps with their own clients as proof of work.

“Once you’ve used Trimble Stratus, you don’t want to use anything else again. It’s so easy!”

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