Chris Anderson, CEO & FounderWhat happens when a group of dreamers, drone lovers, and thrill seekers, who want to build a better future, come together? The outcome is 3D Robotics (3DR). The story behind 3DR is truly extraordinary as it all began unintentionally, when Chris Anderson, CEO and founder built his first drone from a Lego Mindstorms kit while playing with his kids. At the end of it, only one thought stuck in Anderson’s mind, ‘if it was possible for him to assemble military-grade technology on a kitchen table, then it’s time the world opened up to this change.’ At this point, Anderson met 19-year old Jordi Muñoz, a DIY whiz, and together this unlikely pair founded 3DR—the name alludes to the third axis, where consumer robots hadn’t yet traveled. In the same year that it was founded, 3DR created a world-class universal flight code to develop an autopilot platform, which powers systems for some of the biggest UAV companies and research institutes in the world, such as NASA. Today, 3DR is well-known for making drones mainstream and there is no comparison to their drone mapping software platform, 3DR Site Scan that is changing the game for the architecture, engineering, and construction industry.
The Future of Drone Technology
The Site Scan platform—complete with mission planning, fleet management, and automated flight modes—is compatible with various drone options. This includes Yuneec 3DR H520-G, a robust hexacopter and government approved unmanned aerial system (UAS) that is built to work with Site Scan iOS app. Another example is the Phantom 4 Pro, which is one of the most popular drones in the world that works seamlessly in Site Scan. In case an organization is looking for a complete solution, they can purchase both DJI and Yuneec drones from 3DR in addition to Site Scan.
Without a doubt, today the Site Scan platform is the nucleus transforming drones into powerful reality capture tools. The platform’s area and crosshatch survey features make it easy to produce high-resolution orthomosaics, digital elevation models, and 3D point clouds. All drone imagery is automatically uploaded to the cloud where it is processed into high-resolution orthomosaics, elevation models with Pix4D and Autodesk ReCap. While Pix4D is a software solution that transforms RGB and multispectral images into 3D maps and models, Autodesk ReCap makes it possible to create accurate 3D models with reality capture. Site Scan offers unlimited ground control point processing (GCP) to create accurate deliverables and with the cloud-based user experience, a user can tag GCPs five times faster than any other product. Now firms can also collect accurate points with the tap of a button on the 3DR GCP Android app, at a fraction of the time and cost of traditional surveying.
For clients looking to conduct volume measurements for their earthwork projects, Site Scan also offers precise stockpile measurements in 3D, alongside volume reports and net volume changes. If the client in question is a multi-stakeholder organization, the Site Scan Enterprise makes it easy to securely share drone maps and models, complete with dedicated support, fleet management, and permission control at the organization, project, region, and user levels. Another exclusive component of Site Scan is the perimeter scan option, which is an advanced flight mode that captures vertical and oblique imagery at multiple elevations to create detailed 3D models. In addition, the platform makes it possible to record video during any survey, giving an aerial view, which can be used as key footage for presentations and marketing content.
Making Drones Mainstream
Needless to say, today Site Scan is preferred by industry leaders across sectors such as mining, government, and surveying. One of the reasons that make 3DR stand out is that they don’t follow a one-size-fits-all approach and for each client, a personalized onboarding plan is created based on their business objectives. Keeping in mind that security is close on the heels of data capture, 3DR is the only enterprise drone company undergoing strict SOC 2 certification.
Moreover, they take care of complete compliance from Part 107 certification, vehicle registration, and airspace authorization, which ensures that a client’s drone operations are fully compliant, with minimal risk. Customers also have complete ownership of data, which is securely stored in Amazon Web Services (AWS).
The Site Scan platform—complete with mission planning, fleet management, and automated flight modes—is compatible with various drone options
What better highlights 3DR’s value proposition is the top of the line services offered to PCL Construction, a construction service provider headquartered in Canada. PCL, with its philosophy of “build it right, build it once,” was contracted to build the first-ever Crystal Lagoon project in the U.S. they knew that they had to go beyond traditional surveying methods, given the site requirements, complexity, and time pressure to complete the project. PCL needed a solution that could quickly survey the large site, verify grade elevations at key stages of the project, provide better prioritization of QC efforts, and allow for easy sharing of progress reports with internal and external stakeholders. After thorough market research, PCL decided to go with 3DR’s Site Scan as their drone solution. Site Scan allowed PCL to frequently survey the lagoon, make their QA/QC processes more focused and efficient, and easily share aerial photos and data with their team. With Site Scan’s simplified surveying workflow, Autodesk software integrations, and dedicated customer support resources, PCL was able to ace the project. For a project of this size, it would typically take one week to survey the area, process the data, and create a final deliverable; with 3DR the client was able to get the same result in just 1.5 days. Site Scan was used to capture high-resolution aerial imagery and easily zoom into specific areas. Long story short, today PCL uses Site Scan across dozens of projects throughout the U.S. and Canada through a single, secure, and scalable database.
When it comes to the pricing structure, 3DR’s solution is extremely feasible and clients can try the full Site Scan platform for a two-week free trial program. For the maximum benefit of clients, they also train every member of a client’s team with best practices for flying with Site Scan and how to analyze and manage that data downstream. Beyond their own tool, 3DR is also an expert in Autodesk and GIS programs and file types and can step in to work with a client’s team to maximize the Site Scan data in whatever applications it is needed. In addition, a team of technicians is also available in case of any hardware issues.
Paving Way for Consumer Drones
Apart from enterprises, Site Scan is soon emerging as an indispensable system in all walks of life. For example, recently Site Scan was used in Micronesia to document and preserve important ruins and cultural artifacts and also to capture aerial imagery on-site in North Carolina after Hurricane Florence. Last year, the company became the industry’s first to offer autonomous thermal mapping and modeling. Through a one-of-a-kind integration with the DJI M210 dual gimbal drone, 3DR makes it easy to capture and combine thermal and RGB imagery. “Site Scan’s unique ability to generate structurally detailed thermal point clouds is a brand new capability for our customers across engineering, construction, and mining,” says Anderson.
3DR is among the pioneers that took drone technology from a futuristic vision to a mainstream application. Going ahead, the company will continue to evolve as one of the most forward-thinking and innovative companies in the industry, turning gadgets and systems limited to science fiction a reality.