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The Power of Connected Data (Part 1) – What Do You Get When You Combine Drones, GIS, and CAD? Magic…

Today’s best estimates suggest 1.145 trillion MB of data are produced every day. That’s counting everything from the Mars rovers to the lunch you just posted on Instagram. Such staggering volumes make it not only essential that we understand the purpose of the data we collect, but also drive us to organize and optimize the value we can wring from it. Connecting data removes siloes and unites project functions, powers a comprehensive understanding of the data, and provides us an opportunity to increase the value of every data point.

APTIM uses Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software extensively to support our projects. CAD began as a visual tool producing human readable drawings to speed up the design process. GIS was developed as an analytical tool, originally created to assist in land management in rural Canada. Historically, CAD focused on technical drawings while GIS attempted to model the world for analysis, with little crossover between software or practitioners.

Recently, CAD and GIS vendors have been pushed toward the early stages of interoperability, making it easier for engineering and GIS groups to work together from connected data sources. This push stems from Building Information Modeling (BIM), which extends the traditional CAD 2D technical drawing with a fuller virtual information model that also includes time, costs, and geospatial information.

Completing the trifecta of technology and data connectivity is data produced from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also referred to as drones. Drones are increasingly used on construction projects to track, map, inspect, and manage sites safely and efficiently. Drones can be used to collect pictures and video of current site conditions for visual verifications faster and more thoroughly than manual inspections. When used with ground control points or built in high accuracy GPS, drone pictures can be processed with photogrammetry software to create orthomosaic imagery and three-dimensional point clouds. These data have been geometrically corrected and can be used to measure true distances without being physically present. Point clouds are used to create 3D mesh site models and digital elevation models (DEMs). DEMs are highly accurate elevation surfaces that can be used to create contours and map slopes for engineering design. Combining the mesh model with the orthoimage creates a photorealistic 3D site model. The 3D model can be brought into BIM software and compared against the engineering model to check accuracy and progress. As a BIM model, data can be added to inform and enrich every detail of the model, providing spatial context to how we organize, search, and view information. The 3D model can be used in GIS to see how objects fit into the larger geographic context.

APTIM is using our investments in construction and GIS cloud platforms to quickly process drone data and turn it into actionable information. Aerial imagery can be consumed by CAD and GIS software hours after it was collected in the field, rendering it more accessible and meaningful to our project teams and clients. Our team can do simple volumetric calculations on the drone data in the browser, while large 3D models and digital surface models are served from a single location and format.

By continually looking for ways to connect data and increase its power, APTIM is improving both the quality and efficiency of our project delivery. Innovation can be found not only in the technology we use, but, even more importantly, in how we use it.

APTIM. In Pursuit of Better.