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What I've learned thanks to many of you.

R.Perry

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This month is the second anniversary of doing construction documentation with a drone. As many of you know there are several facets of construction documentation. Some is done from the ground with cameras, and interiors are done with cameras.

My experience is solely with aerial photography. When I started in January of 2018 my contract called for doing exteriors and elevations with a few panos. It didn’t take long to realize my client wasn’t pleased with what we were giving them, primarily the exterior and elevation shoots, they weren’t even looking at them and they were the most time consuming.

Talking to the Superintendent he clearly laid out his dissatisfaction with what he was getting for what he was paying. As we talked it became apparent, he was more interested in an overview of the project (about 180 acres). I suggested mapping to him and told him I would do one mapping for free so he could evaluate it. Once he seen the mapping, he loved it, had to have it. Well the contract was modified, and elevations and exteriors were removed and mapping and more panos were now included. A few months later he asked if I could do videos, I told him I could, but it would be a learning experience for me because I’m not a video guy, he understood.

I did one video and he loved it, that became a weekly or bi-weekly shoot. In January of 2019 they used one of my videos at the construction seminar in Las Vegas, it wasn’t very good, but the construction people didn’t care as much about the quality of video as basically a construction overview.

So why did I say all this? This has been a tremendous learning experience for me, not only in aerial photography but in creating videos thanks to many people giving me advice and ideas. Most importantly though was learning what my client really needed and supplying it. I knew basically nothing about major construction of multistory building and what is involved, so I asked probably ten million questions over the past two years, and probably drove the superintendent and engineers nuts but it has given me a good foundation and understanding of what they need.

In photography we look for the beautiful shots, the lighting to be just right. In construction they only care about seeing what work has been completed, and what needs to be done. Actually, I owe a lot to this forum because I have learned a great deal thanks to many of you.
 

ArrUnTuS

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Thanks to you too, we finally do this together and for everyone :D

You can't imagine how happy I am to hear that you are doing well, this is a very new field and it is a continuous learning process. This cheers us all up. Together we can make it big and above all productive for our customers, make a sector grow from the beginning and have to adapt to the changes that arise along the way is what can make us be good ;)
 
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R.Perry

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One of the points I was attempting to make and didn't elaborate on it very well is don't think like a photographer but as a construction supervisor wanting to see the entire projects progress. Sure you want clear high resolution photos, but you aren't shooting for nation geo.
 

ArrUnTuS

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How nice it is to do a job when the client is very clear about what he wants and is not looking for nonsense, I need this and that's it :D
 

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Thank you for sharing this. I am just about to start putting boots to the ground to get potential clients in the construction trade. I’ve worked in it to some degree and have some connections to hopefully grab a few takers. I’ve practiced with mapping and plan on using pix4dcloud as this has a great deliverable, easily shared and the client can utilize the tools themselves. In your experience what else are clients wanting, orthomosaics? 3D models? Also as far as using ground control points to get accurate maps, what have you all done?
 
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chasco

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This month is the second anniversary of doing construction documentation with a drone. As many of you know there are several facets of construction documentation. Some is done from the ground with cameras, and interiors are done with cameras.

My experience is solely with aerial photography. When I started in January of 2018 my contract called for doing exteriors and elevations with a few panos. It didn’t take long to realize my client wasn’t pleased with what we were giving them, primarily the exterior and elevation shoots, they weren’t even looking at them and they were the most time consuming.

Talking to the Superintendent he clearly laid out his dissatisfaction with what he was getting for what he was paying. As we talked it became apparent, he was more interested in an overview of the project (about 180 acres). I suggested mapping to him and told him I would do one mapping for free so he could evaluate it. Once he seen the mapping, he loved it, had to have it. Well the contract was modified, and elevations and exteriors were removed and mapping and more panos were now included. A few months later he asked if I could do videos, I told him I could, but it would be a learning experience for me because I’m not a video guy, he understood.

I did one video and he loved it, that became a weekly or bi-weekly shoot. In January of 2019 they used one of my videos at the construction seminar in Las Vegas, it wasn’t very good, but the construction people didn’t care as much about the quality of video as basically a construction overview.

So why did I say all this? This has been a tremendous learning experience for me, not only in aerial photography but in creating videos thanks to many people giving me advice and ideas. Most importantly though was learning what my client really needed and supplying it. I knew basically nothing about major construction of multistory building and what is involved, so I asked probably ten million questions over the past two years, and probably drove the superintendent and engineers nuts but it has given me a good foundation and understanding of what they need.

In photography we look for the beautiful shots, the lighting to be just right. In construction they only care about seeing what work has been completed, and what needs to be done. Actually, I owe a lot to this forum because I have learned a great deal thanks to many of you.
We're going on our 6th year and it is amazing how much every facets of drone mapping and use in construction has improved. GNSS integration both on the UAV's and on the ground is the number one improvement by far that has affected the industry this year. Equipment has become much more affordable, solutions have become more intuitive and there is a large enough user base established that is has become much easier to consult and train up new users. I think 2021 is going to be the year of integration for ground data with the UAV data. Most of the analysis solutions that I have been a part of bringing up are really focused on 360-degree interiors and linking of ground point clouds with the drone point clouds. This is all building towards making this 3D data and VDC programs a major part of the entire construction process and management.
 

R.Perry

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Thank you for sharing this. I am just about to start putting boots to the ground to get potential clients in the construction trade. I’ve worked in it to some degree and have some connections to hopefully grab a few takers. I’ve practiced with mapping and plan on using pix4dcloud as this has a great deliverable, easily shared and the client can utilize the tools themselves. In your experience what else are clients wanting, orthomosaics? 3D models? Also as far as using ground control points to get accurate maps, what have you all done?

You ask what clients want? Superintendents want to sit in their offices and see then entire construction site. I can only speak for the client I had. What I found they used the most was the Panos then the mapping. As they gained trust in the accuracy of the mapping the engineering department began using the downloads to their CAD programs. The videos ended up being viewed by their cooperate people both in San Francisco and New York I believe. At first I had a little difficulty getting the surveyors to work with me.
I made plenty of mistakes at first like using a GCP that was then three feet higher than original, that left me with egg on my face.
Close to the end of the project the superintendent told me that my mappings and panos saved him and his people hundreds of hours over the course of the project. It was the first time they had ever used this kind of service.
 

JDL

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How did you approach the client to get these jobs, did you already have a portfolio, or was it your first go at it.
 

chasco

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You ask what clients want? Superintendents want to sit in their offices and see then entire construction site. I can only speak for the client I had. What I found they used the most was the Panos then the mapping. As they gained trust in the accuracy of the mapping the engineering department began using the downloads to their CAD programs. The videos ended up being viewed by their cooperate people both in San Francisco and New York I believe. At first I had a little difficulty getting the surveyors to work with me.
I made plenty of mistakes at first like using a GCP that was then three feet higher than original, that left me with egg on my face.
Close to the end of the project the superintendent told me that my mappings and panos saved him and his people hundreds of hours over the course of the project. It was the first time they had ever used this kind of service.
In our experience Project Management wants the panos and animations of the side-by-side comparisons of the maps. Superintendents want production and materials quantification and the CAD Overlay on the map. Marketing and Developers want the progress aerials and the video although I am getting them more into the panos overlayed with hotspots and tours of site and surrounding area amenities. We currently operate our program for 25 concurrent self-performed projects and 7 projects as drone services to outside firms whether it be other General Contractors, Municipalities or Developers.

How did you approach the client to get these jobs, did you already have a portfolio, or was it your first go at it.
We have a proposal packet that includes our experience and internal infrastructure that is built uniquely to provide data using Survey, CAD and Drone Services that other providers are not capable of providing. Find your unique talents and emphasize them. The proposal also includes our fee schedule provided in two ways. Hourly and negotiated term with a list of packages typically provided and those items in an ala carte option. Lastly we offer to perform a free site capture and analysis followed by a consultation. We provide allot of data so the debriefing consultation is a must to ensure that the client is going to be able to wrap their heads around what is happening.

If you don't have infrastructure and past experience go get it. Construction companies in our area are becoming very savvy so if they haven't started their own programs the are thinking about it or hiring DSP's to get started. Contact General Contractors, Developers and Engineers in your area and offer a free capture.
 

R.Perry

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As for me, I contracted to Multivista to do the Aerial of the UC Merced project. Other jobs I just knocked on doors. I doing more Ag mapping lately, and a fifteen mile pipeline project that is filled with government BS.
 

chasco

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As for me, I contracted to Multivista to do the Aerial of the UC Merced project. Other jobs I just knocked on doors. I doing more Ag mapping lately, and a fifteen mile pipeline project that is filled with government BS.
Just curious, what was Multivista doing that you chose not to?
 

SWA Pilot

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Encouraging projections. And a great testimony to the learning curve we all going through or preparing to go through. Just as a discussion tangent...where do you think LIDAR fits in this? Some of the equipment cost seem to be coming down...as are the weights.
 

chasco

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Encouraging projections. And a great testimony to the learning curve we all going through or preparing to go through. Just as a discussion tangent...where do you think LIDAR fits in this? Some of the equipment cost seem to be coming down...as are the weights.
You nailed it. Lidar is a game changer, but has to be cost effective to hit the larger population of drone users. Most industry analyst show construction upwards of 40% of the commercial drone market right now and backlogs for 2021 show that will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. I am seeing more engineering firms pick up Lidar than anyone else right now. Particularly Structural Engineers. Surveyors have had it in some form or fashion for a while so what they are relying on is the nature of the data being updated more frequently or having the ability to have it captured on demand. Construction performs tasks of many industries and could take full advantage of Lidar, but it's still a little too expensive for now.

The other roadblock in construction partially tied to that will be... Do we actually need it? With the accuracies we are currently achieving with PPK and GCP's the only thing Lidar is going to greatly benefit is preconstruction surveys through vegetation and final project asbuilts. Everything else simply moves to fast for the worry of absolute accuracy. We can move 100,000cy of material in a day easily. We could use Lidar right now, but from what I have seen there aren't many other firms right now that have the infrastructure to jump right in.
 
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SWA Pilot

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An engineering consulting firm representative I talked with last week said that their best LIDAR package cost them $175k Custom built. Bigger than M600. But they got a ROI in 6 months. $300/acre is what they get. Seems like a nice target. Got to be some smaller chunks the rest of us can get.
 
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chasco

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An engineering consulting firm representative I talked with last week said that their best LIDAR package cost them $175k Custom built. Bigger than M600. But they got a ROI in 6 months. $300/acre is what they get. Seems like a nice target. Got to be some smaller chunks the rest of us can get.
Right at $100k is the figure I keep getting with an M600 or similar frame. I am really hoping on pulling in an M300 RTK with an L1 and P1 for about $45-50k. I think many mid-sized construction companies like us would be very interested at that price point. We provide drone services outside of our company as well so I bet I could get it paid for pretty quick. Especially if we can figure out how to get it to tag the photos with the RTK as well.
 
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SWA Pilot

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Right at $100k is the figure I keep getting with an M600 or similar frame. I am really hoping on pulling in an M300 RTK with an L1 and P1 for about $45-50k. I think many mid-sized construction companies like us would be very interested at that price point. We provide drone services outside of our company as well so I bet I could get it paid for pretty quick. Especially if we can figure out how to get it to tag the photos with the RTK as well.
Similar pricing from enterprise UAS. M600 $65k-100k+, M300 L1 starts at $30k. No details beyond that.
 
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R.Perry

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Just curious, what was Multivista doing that you chose not to?

It wasn't a matter of me choosing not to do. We started off doing exterior elevation shoots, example one building would average over 110 pictures, another words window by window closeups. Client had no use for them, this was the first time this client used aerial photography as a tool. The initial set up called for five panos twice a week. The panos were spaced too far apart to give the client the views they wanted.
At first the client didn't want mapping, not until I did one for them, once they seen the mapping they had to have it. Multivista modified the contract to Weekly mappings, and seventeen panos, weekly overflight video. I didn't have the authority to make any changes to the contract.
One of the county building inspectors told me that the mappings and panos was saving hi a great deal of time, meaning arm chair inspections.
We did no interiors on this job site other than a final fly through video of the cafeteria, that I didn't want to do.

I wish I could post some examples, but they are proprietary so most I can't without permission.
 

chasco

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It wasn't a matter of me choosing not to do. We started off doing exterior elevation shoots, example one building would average over 110 pictures, another words window by window closeups. Client had no use for them, this was the first time this client used aerial photography as a tool. The initial set up called for five panos twice a week. The panos were spaced too far apart to give the client the views they wanted.
At first the client didn't want mapping, not until I did one for them, once they seen the mapping they had to have it. Multivista modified the contract to Weekly mappings, and seventeen panos, weekly overflight video. I didn't have the authority to make any changes to the contract.
One of the county building inspectors told me that the mappings and panos was saving hi a great deal of time, meaning arm chair inspections.
We did no interiors on this job site other than a final fly through video of the cafeteria, that I didn't want to do.

I wish I could post some examples, but they are proprietary so most I can't without permission.
Thanks for the detail. I was just curious because a contractor that I am working with also engaged Multivista and ended up cutting their contract down to phase specific progress photos and interiors that they would integrate with the plans. This is the one feature they have that the rest of us don't and probably never will. Multivista was trying to map this 100 acre multi-building site with a Mavic 2 Pro from 300ft with no GCP's trying to call it a map. We obviously wiped that one out quickly, but to my surprise we ended up doing the progress photos and videos as well. Now we are looking at the vertical facade inspections, but I am not sure I want that piece with all the cranes and trees. I would do it myself, but I hate to put one of my guys in that position. DroneDeploy has VFI, but it is really new and I haven't used it enough to trust it in this scenario being for the State of Texas. What did you use for facades?
 

R.Perry

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Wow I didn't think any Multivista Franchise would use anything but Inspire 1 or 2. 300 Feet with Mavic for mapping is too high. Most construction people depend on their surveyors, not aerial mapping. What I found that mapping gave the client was a way of getting a tremendous overview of the project with the ability to zoom in on specific sites on the project, this in itself is a powerful tool on a large project like UC Merced was.

I believe surveyors will soon be depending on drones for a lot of their work, but the accuracy needs to be their and consistent.
As for Multivista, all their drone pilots are required to go through the training at Avion in Huntsville, AL. The smallest drone is the Inspire 1, most are inspire 2. I don't believe Avion would not allow a student to bring a Mavic to the school. They are the same group training the Army drone pilots, they have some pretty cool toys their.

Most of the Multivista photographers that do interior shoots aren't drone pilots. They do have some pretty cool photography equipment for doing 3D interior shoots, that just isn't my bag.
 

chasco

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Wow I didn't think any Multivista Franchise would use anything but Inspire 1 or 2.
I don't know much about their company, but they were using a Mavic 2 Pro and a Mavic Mini. After seeing some of their operations they will never step foot on one of our jobsites if I have anything to say about it. You can go to all the classes you want, but if it's not put into practice in the field it might as well be Johnny off the corner flying the drone.

Most construction people depend on their surveyors, not aerial mapping.
That's a pretty vague statement, but I get your meaning. The way our program is built the drone is part of survey and is a supplemental tool. It tackles large tasks that allows our surveyors to focus on what construction surveyors do best like layout control and do cut-sheets. They are very happy to not have to traverse hundreds of acres of potentially dangerous terrain and climb stockpiles for half their days. Plus you get pictures! :D

We just bought an Insta360 One R so our next building project should be fun!
 

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