The demand for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, in the engineering industry has boomed during the past few years. Drones can be employed in a variety of projects — Hanson has used them for airport obstruction surveys, wildlife studies via infrared surveys, TV tower inspections, topographic surveys, virtual reality modeling and general project documentation throughout the country.
Hanson has offered drone services since it received its FAA exemption in 2015. In March this year, Hanson expanded its fleet to better serve clients, adding a drone to its Springfield, Illinois, headquarters and providing a drone for its Texas offices and another for its Florida locations.
“It is a technology that has taken some time to prove itself in Springfield, and we are excited to push it to the regional offices,” said Matt Dondanville, GISP, a geographic information system specialist at Hanson’s headquarters.
Matt is one of Hanson’s several drone operators. He has operated UAVs on countless projects, including an airport planning analysis for Coles County Memorial Airport in Mattoon, Illinois; a structural assessment of a 1,600-foot TV tower in Memphis, Tennessee; and 3D imagery for virtual reality to show a client traffic simulations for a new roundabout.
To fly a drone for a project, an FAA-licensed remote pilot is needed. Hanson’s pilots fly company-owned DJI products but can operate drones made by other manufacturers. “Not all drones are created the same, and some projects need different technology,” Matt said.
During planning, Hanson’s project team determines if airspace authorizations around airports are needed and if any waivers to amend the FAA’s Part 107 rules for small unmanned aircraft operations must be submitted.
After considering weather forecasts and conducting any UAV maintenance, the pilot is ready to fly the drone on-site. In addition to following safe flight guidelines issued under Part 107, Hanson’s pilots also use an internal UAV operations dashboard developed by the firm that gives a step-by-step process to ensure a safe flight.
The drones can record videos and take high-resolution photos with onboard cameras. After the flight, the photos can be turned into 3D deliverables — such as models, virtual reality environments and maps that show contours and surfaces — through photogrammetry software.
If you would like a Hanson drone pilot to help you with your project, contact Matt Dondanville, GISP, at firstname.lastname@example.org.