Much of my drone work revolves around the construction sector, everything from aerial stills and video through to detailed analysis, volumetrics and cut & fill. Generally these jobs are longer term with regular updates, often monthly, over the life of the development.

I have just been asked to provide updates for a large greenfield site development. The project will result in nearly 2000 new homes, 36 acres of employment land, schools, local centre and substantial areas of landscaping built over a number of years. Initial discussions have been based on providing aerial stills and video with two updates per week (more on that later).

So I have the bones of an instruction but it is the planning in these early stages that will dictate the sucess of the project. Understanding how the client intends to use the outputs is fundamental as that will influence how you capture the imagery and having an agreed brief certainly helps. The client will want to use the imagery to show the progression of the site development from the early days of the initial ground works right through to parts of the development being occupied. In addition they will want to compare the imagery captured with the various models they have used in the planning process. To achieve this it will be important to set up the drone to fly the same routes and take pictures from the same locations.

I have been provided the site Master Plan and "CGI" images from various key viewpoints. I will need to set up aerial stills which replicate the assumed positions used for the CGI outputs. I will also need to think about the rollout of the development and how it will progress over time.

Initially I used the usual resources drone opertors use to check that there are no local flight restrictions. I also reviewed the site on Google Earth. Another key factor to bear in mind when planning the drone position is the position of the sun. The app "The Photographers Empemeris" is excellent for this as you can review the position of the sun for any point in time.

I now had a good overview of the key parts of the site and the phasing of the development. Next stage was to visit the site.

I went last week for the first time and met with the Project Manager and agreed the best locations to fly from. At his stage I hadn't done any detailed flight planning and the intent was to fly manually and take a look at the locations I thought best to capture the stills from and the route for the video. I flew the site twice changing batteries and ND filters between them. The result was a number of images which I could review with the client.

From this review we refined the locations of the stills and also compared options to use a panorama or single shot. The video route I had filmed was about there with some minor tweeks. I was now able to set up two missions in Litchi, one for stills and one for video. I flew these automated flights today and the outputs are all good.

We are now considering futher options and whether to undertake a regular photogrammetry survey. These again can be used to demonstrate the progression of the development. 

Frequency of the capture of the aerial stills and video has to be finalised. The client is keen to have two updates per week. Whilst good for business I don't think two a week will give the client much benefit over doing one a week. Hopefully we will get that agreed over the next few days.

To summarise it has taken a few hours of work over the past fortnight to do the intial planning and thereafter two site visits. I now have the flights all set up in Litchi so repeat data capture will be straightforward. Spending this time now means the client will have the outputs they require and I have made the imagery capture as efficient as possible.

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