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How Drone Technology is Changing Civil Engineering and Land Surveying

Civil engineering has long been at the forefront of innovation and therefore there is no surprise at the recent push to incorporate new drone technology into one of the UK’s largest highways project.

Highways England, a trunk roads and motorway authority, has been working with the start-up tech company SenSat. Their mission over the past year has been to create the first high-resolution digital model of all the highways in the UK. This has been done via autonomous mapping drones.

Image credit:Offcaania/shutterstock

The use of drones to create topographical surveys has very clear benefits to the world of civil engineering. In the past, all land surveying was carried out by hand. This process was slow and required operatives to enter hazardous environments to produce the land surveys needed before planning, design and construction can start.

In this project, SenSat has used a drone to fly over 9000km of highways to generate an aerial survey in a digital format. These surveys are 1200 x faster than traditional surveys, as well as producing 15000 additional data points; creating a more accurate topographical survey.

More importantly, the use of drones to create the survey meant that the highways could remain live, without the need to implement expensive and intrusive traffic management schemes and eliminating the need for physical access and, in turn, reducing the risk of accidents associated with working on live roads.

Currently, SenSat is centered in Hampshire, where it is generating a full 3D model of the M27 smart motorways scheme. This is due to the new push towards rapid engineering modeling in the industry. This is to create a dataset that can be used to automate the design of smart motorway routes with the aim to “design a motorway in a day”. REM outputs are able to give design teams more data than traditional surveys as well as standardizing the industry for easier integrated partnerships.

The topographical survey can be used to calculate cut and fill measurements, analyze visual lines and generate 3D mesh or point clouds. This will cut project costs and give engineers better insights into design decisions.

Having a digital copy of the world around us is incredibly useful. It allows us to measure quicker, calculate more accurately and plan in ways that were simply not possible even two years ago.

Jack Lomas, Chief Executive of SenSat

In September 2017, the UK government announced a pathfinder program to test ways that drones can be applied commercially in the UK. The aim of this program is to trial ways drones can be efficiently  and safely flown beyond the line of sight, to their technological limit (currently 200km). Currently, the legal limit for drone flight in the UK stands at 500m.

As part of the trial program, SenSat is the only approved company in the UK to fly drones up to 200km as part of civil engineering and infrastructure. The company will retain the permission to do this for up to five years.

Lomas is confident that this new technology will shape the future inefficient and safe working.

We believe in innovation in sustainability; collecting useful information that can help us make better, more informed decisions for a future of sustainable growth.

Jack Lomas, Chief Executive of SenSat

This story is reprinted from material from New Civil Engineer, with editorial changes made by Azo Network. The original article can be found here.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.


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