BIG RED DOG now using Drones

April 11, 2016 by Walker Santiago

What are we doing with Drones at BIG RED DOG? After years of waiting for the FAA to approve commercial use of SUAS (Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems) we are now offering Drone solutions for our clients. We can provide our clients with Site aerials, Topographic Maps for improved preliminary engineering, construction progress and even commercial videos for marketing.

BIG RED DOG Austin office

Drones use technology most of us are already familiar with. Drones use GPS satellites’ to log their position horizontally and vertically. They use Gyroscopes similar to ones found in our phone accelerometers. They also use altimeters. Some more advanced drones like the DJI Inspire 1, used by our pilots, use Vision positioning that uses ultrasonic and image data to help identify the drone’s current position. When indoors this system allows the drone precision hover even when GPS is not available. Our Drones are also capable of capturing 4K video and transmitting an HD video signal. This list of technology is just scratching the surface of what is used. LIDAR, FLIR cameras are also used for advanced data collection and analysis.

Our pilots are very skilled and aware of their surroundings at all times. The use of Visual observers is mandatory for safe use of drones in all environments. Our drones will fly a site using a preselected flight pattern in our defined area of interest with a specific flight altitude and photo overlap. The overlap is important for us to optimally process the aerials using photogrammetry software afterwards.

Drone SF housingWe gather and then import all site aerials into our Photogrammetry software to begin the process of stitching and optimizing them together into an orthomosaic. The program will identify multiple matching points among the photos to calculate the elevation of that point. These points are all georeferenced to match the exact position of the photo when taken out on site. This means all of our data will be in state plain coordinates automatically. Our drone camera has the capability of capturing points along surfaces much like LIDAR, but because our drone can take additional angled photos we can get extra depth that LIDAR can’t. This added depth allows us to calculate points underneath objects that would’ve blocked LIDAR like canopies. With the horizontal and vertical elevations calculated the program creates a point cloud based on all of those points that can be used to create accurate topographic 3d maps that match topographic maps using the current survey methods. When compared to these maps they are within 95% confidence level of accuracy. These provide our clients with a preliminary Topographic map with better accuracy than previously available from USGS or city LIFAR data. All this with a quick turnaround of days even for 100 acre sites.

 drone aerial photogrammetry topography
Site topo created from drone aerial photogrammetry. When we compared to standard survey topography this data was within 95% confidence level of accuracy when compared to a survey using standard methods.
drone office
BIG RED DOG’s Austin Office Mesh surface as created from our site aerials.
drone fire hydrat
A fire hydrant can be clearly seen as points from our site aerials.

Our Drones will also fly sites for construction progress photos every month. We can also have a flight plan created to analyze possible construction issues. This data can be used to gather current site aerial and elevation information. This provides our clients with the most accurate picture of their project available on the market.

The uses for drone technology will continue to grow across many markets. BIG RED DOG will be there to provide these innovative solutions to our clients. If you want to find out more about any drone solutions BIG RED DOG can offer you, please contact us.

Written by Walker Santiago

Walker Santiago

Walker Santiago is a Senior Project Designer at BIG RED DOG Engineering | Consulting and is a shareholder in the company. Walker graduated from ITT Technical Institute of Austin with a Associate of Science degree in CADD. He leverages his formal education with his hands-on experience crafting custom Civil3D programming to ensure he provides clients with strategic, quality construction plans. Walker enjoys sharing knowledge with the community and friends by being active online with several CADD and 3D visualization groups. When he isn’t fine-tuning his techniques or getting up to speed on the industry’s latest, he enjoys time with his friends and family in the Austin/San Antonio Area.