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Construction materials prices rose considerably in 2021. As a result, operators are constantly looking for ways to keep costs low to meet their bottom line; and yet, over 85% of construction projects exceed the initial budget.

Most overrun issues are rooted in inaccurate estimates made during the bidding process, which can make or break a project’s profitability. Many construction operators have had to eat the cost of moving more dirt than they initially estimated. In fact, the construction industry as a whole lost $1.8 trillion globally in 2020 alone, as a result of bad data.

In today’s competitive bid landscape, common surveying technology no longer suffices. Accurate data is key to both preventing unforeseen costs and avoiding overbidding and losing out on a project altogether.

With new drone data visualization technology, operators can map a site with a heightened level of accuracy and create 3D models, offering the clearest picture of jobsite conditions from the start. Combined with data consolidation strategies, which pull together all site information into a single package, precise measurement through drone surveying can help contractors avoid costly pre-planning mistakes.

A crystal-clear bird's-eye view

Drone data visualization is better than traditional surveying methods because of its high accuracy and quick image collection and turnaround times.

Previously, it was difficult for surveys to be quick and accurate. Operators either had to spend days walking a site with cumbersome equipment or settle for rapid-generated data lacking precision. With advancements in photogrammetry (extracting 3D information from photographs) and drone hardware, operators can now use drone surveying to swiftly obtain actionable data ahead of submitting their bids.

Operators can fly a drone over the site in a matter of minutes, allowing the device to automatically take pictures at set time intervals, which are then stitched together within 24 hours to form a 3D model of the site, accurate up to 1/10th of a foot. With an even flight path, stabilized camera position, and smaller data collection window, compiling survey data via drone produces even more accurate pictures of a jobsite.

This level of exactness was key to saving a surveyor thousands of dollars on a recent building project. With drone survey data, the surveyor was able to compare its maps against the contractor’s design and preliminary development surfaces, discover more dirt needed to be moved than initially estimated, and build the additional dirt moving cost into the construction price of each structure instead of passing it on to the client. Operators not only filled in 100 times more data points than traditional surveying methods to create robust 3D surface maps, but also cut down surveying time by 80% to just half a day, which ultimately saved them over $185,000 before breaking ground.

Drone data visualization saves operators thousands at the bid stage, and when combined with data management can help them win more bids.

Consolidated data management unlocks savings

Setting up a project for success starts during the bid process. Multiple uncoordinated streams of information at this stage can prevent a company from winning the bid or lead to excess materials and labor costs down the line.

With data consolidation strategies, operators can synthesize all the information about on-site conditions into a shareable, easy-to-digest package. Combining multiple jobsite condition inputs—such as the grade of the land, earth compaction and utility line conflicts—creates a dynamic representation of the site. Drone surveying technology can provide a single source of truth, helping multiple decision makers synthesize a myriad of inputs to reduce the time needed to compile a bid. From one drone survey, operators can not only establish an accurate project plan but also facilitate cross-team communication about all aspects of the jobsite in the cloud.

An Arizona-based construction company sometimes spent hours traversing a site to collect all the various survey measurements ahead of their bids. That extra time would bump up costs, and traditional methods could exclude important details such as break lines under vegetation or extra earth that needed to be moved in inaccessible areas.

Once the construction company started using drone imaging, it was able to obtain cheaper and more accurate surveys that revealed site conditions and measured earthmoving quantities, all from one platform. The company could communicate this information across their teams via the cloud and formulate a succinct bid plan to outline how much dirt operators needed to move to meet the design, where it needed to be moved, and how machines would move it. For an easier start to the project after they won the bid, the construction company would use the initial survey as a topographical map on which they could layer on any additional material stockpile visuals, utilities overlays or equipment planning maps.

With data consolidation through drone visualization, operators can synthesize mountains of information to create a robust representation of a jobsite, saving money at the bid stage and beyond.

Lowering pre-bid costs by taking to the skies

Drone visualization and proper data management help unlock a new level of accuracy, reducing unforeseen dirt moving costs and inefficiencies to preserve profitability at the bid stage.

With drone surveying technology in hand, operators can walk into a bid confident in their knowledge of every detail of a site, and leverage data consolidation strategies to carry that confidence throughout the project and realize huge savings.

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