The unmanned aerial systems (UAS) industry suffers from an identity crisis. The term drone and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) often are used interchangeably. As the technology matures, however, it is more accurate to consider the integration of the pilot, controls, vehicle, sensors and the processing of the data as a system. As a pioneer in this technology, GBA is utilizing an innovative approach for the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS).
Beyond dull, dirty or dangerous
Peter W. Singer characterized UAS as appropriate for dull, dirty or dangerous missions. From an engineering standpoint, a UAS fulfills those purposes and more as they become part of the tool set in engineering.
In August of 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration introduced rules to acquire a remote pilot certification for commercial operations. Soon after, GBA conducted training for employees interested in operating Unmanned Aerial Systems to enhance their technical abilities on projects. The training focused on safe operations and guidance to follow FAA regulations. All participants passed the test and obtained certifications to operate UAVs. An intensive hands-on flight instruction program is now being conducted on a regular basis to GBA employees and others who plan to seek certification to fly UASs.
GBA has been providing innovative engineering and architectural solutions since 1969. GBA serves several market sectors including transportation, water environment, buildings, site development, commissioning, systems integration and construction management. When it comes to UAS use in engineering, the future is already here.
Line of Sight Project
Sara Peters, P.E., a civil engineer, working on a line of sight project was the first of our certified employees to engineer/remote pilot a UAS in the field following our training. A line of sight study normally requires the coordination of bucket trucks and tower climbers. By deploying the UAS it significantly reduced risk and added value to the process.
“We shortened the field investigation time by half and were able to report our findings in a more direct, clear manner supported by pictures and video. As a remote pilot, I not only have a full understanding of the technology and regulations, but I can deliver a rapid response to our clients," Peters said.
Bridge Deck Delamination
Sean Baxter, E.I.T. /remote pilot, is part of the bridge inspection team. In his role, he is looking for deck delamination, which occurs when the surface concrete begins to separate from the base structure. The typical method for detecting delamination is chain dragging. The chain creates a hollow sound where delamination exists. Repairing delamination early saves money, but shutting down a roadway lane for inspectors to conduct chain dragging slows traffic and creates a safety issue for workers.
A UAS with an infrared sensor can spot delamination from the air. The aerial images can be downloaded into AutoCAD or MicroStation to produce “to-scale” repair plans. The UAS output allows for precise drawings to be produced.
“I don’t have to stand in traffic putting myself and drivers in danger. Traffic continues to flow and the results are easy to explain to our clients,” Baxter said.
Land Surveys for Real Estate
Justin Oakley, survey crew chief/remote pilot, conducts land surveys and facility mapping. This is a time-consuming process that often includes methodical tasks, like counting parking spaces or measuring distances and angles between designated points.
To support a real estate transaction for a large shopping center in Independence, Mo., an ALTA survey was needed quickly to meet a tight closing schedule. The size of the site and amount of detailed field information required made it challenging for a traditional field crew to complete the survey on time.
Using the high quality camera to shoot overlapping images, GBA’s UAS team captured the field data and then used UAS software to complete a high-resolution, highly accurate ALTA survey.
Combining its UAS technology with office staff expertise, GBA produced a survey that contained more accurate, more complete information along with a high resolution low altitude aerial image, completed within the compressed schedule.
UAS is fully integrated into GBA’s overall practice. The firm regularly tests UAS technology side-by-side with the standard methodology to determine new applications that might create efficiencies and deliver superior results. GBA will remain at the forefront of the industry, continuing to explore new ways to use UASs while delivering access to ever-more-innovative possibilities to our clients.
GBA has been providing innovative engineering and architectural solutions since 1969, serving several market sectors including transportation, water environment, buildings, site development, commissioning, systems integration and construction management.