Risk is one of the key issues that effects all clients and project team are continually striving to ensure that risk is minimised wherever possible. The biggest unknowns occur at the site acquisition stage, where hidden problems such as flooding, contamination, land ownership, sensitive ecology, visual impact and access and egress can make the difference between a viable site for development or a liability. Traditional surveys can be very expensive and take many weeks or months to complete. Drone technology is helping to accelerate the process of site assessment. Since 2015 Wilder Associates have been developing new applications for drone technology in site assessment, from site hydrology to ecology and site access. The ability to map large tracts of land quickly and accurately has led to a new workflow that accelerates the collection of critical site information and the creation of a new platform that enables the developer and the design team to collaborate in a virtual environment in real time and in a 3D representation of the site.
This approach was tested recently on a site in South East London with a creek wall where little was know about the condition of the structure. Flying over the riverside, we were able to capture high-resolution images that enabled us to reconstruct a 3D model of the creek wall. This provided invaluable data on the condition and the geometry of the wall, even enabling the team to understand how the drainage outlets were working. This is something that would have been difficult to capture using traditional techniques due to the tidal conditions and the thick mud at the base of the wall.
Further examples of such applications include residential masterplans with dense woodland where we are able to gain an understanding of the heights and spread of trees and even identify species. We have also used the technology to assess sites within floodplains and were able to survey a 14-hectare site in just 14 minutes. More recently we have been using the technology for carrying out roof condition surveys, even picking up an award for the use of technology to improve health and safety in facilities management.
Below is an interactive model of the creek wall which gives an indication of the speed and accuracy of the information produced. It took just over 20 minutes to produce this model. To get the best representation don't forget to expand it to full screen.