How Aerial Data Helped PCL Transform Its Surveying Workflow

PCL used 3DR Site Scan and Solo drone for survey work on America’s first Crystal Lagoon

In January 2017, PCL Construction broke ground on the first-ever Crystal Lagoon project in the United States, just north of Tampa, Florida. The 7.3 acre lagoon will be the centerpiece of a 3,000 home development, and future residents will be able to swim, kayak, paddleboard, and enjoy the beach right in their backyard.

The lagoon is approximatly 7.3 acres with a perimeter of 4,382 feet

PCL used drones on the site as a QA/QC tool, and on March 15th 3DR held a webinar with PCL to share how they incorporated drones on this project. Bill Bennington, Virtual Construction Manager at PCL Orlando, and André Tousignant, Virtual Construction Specialist at PCL Orlando, led the webinar and discussed how they used drones to transform their surveying workflow. To watch the recording, click here.

The challenge

As the first lagoon of its kind ever to be built in the U.S., and PCL had three main challenges to overcome in order to ensure the project went smoothly:

  1. Verify grade elevations at key phases of the project: before breaking ground, after completing self-performed work, and before turning the site over to the owner
  2. Efficiently prioritize and focus traditional QC in the field on a site with a large footprint
  3. Share progress and data both internally and externally with project stakeholders

The solution: Site Scan with a 3DR Solo Drone

PCL partnered with 3DR to use our Site Scan platform to survey the lagoon, make their QA/QC process faster and more efficient, communicate and share progress, and more. Bennington explained the decision to go with 3DR: “What it came down to, for us, was the simplified workflow, the support we received from 3DR, and the scalability of the product. We also liked using both 3DR hardware and software, along with the integration that 3DR has with Autodesk in cloud processing.”

Field engineers at PCL earned their Remote Pilot Certification and quickly got up and running with drones on the site. They first set up highly visible ground control points, input the points into Site Scan, and ensured accuracy by using independent checkpoints. Before each flight, pilots completed a pre-flight safety checklist and used the “refly” button to perform scans automatically.

To learn more about their drone program field workflow, hear directly from PCL’s Bill Bennington in a video recording of our webinar about this project.

“What it came down to, for us, was the simplified workflow, the support we received from 3DR, and the scalability of the product. We also liked using both 3DR hardware and software, along with the integration that 3DR has with Autodesk in cloud processing.” — Bill Bennington, PCL

Key results

  1. Millions of precise points


A typical survey collects a limited amount of precise points, usually around 15–20. With Site Scan, PCL was able to collect millions of precise points in a fraction of the time a regular survey would take.

It typically takes a surveyor one week to perform this kind of survey, process the data, and export the PDF, CAD file, and contours. With a drone to cloud solution, PCL was able to cut this process into just 1.5 days: it takes 10 minutes to fly the drone and transfer the data into the cloud, up to an hour to process the job, and a day to export the CAD file and contours, in addition to orthoimagery and a point cloud.

2. Focused QC


With a perimeter of 4,382 feet, the Crystal Lagoon has a large footprint that PCL wanted to help cover using a drone. They continued to go on-site for quality control, but now that they could also use the 3DR Solo to fly the site in minutes, capture aerial data, and easily zoom in for high-resolution imagery. With the combination of drones and on-site surveying, their QC process became more focused and efficient.

3. Regular scans, regular progress updates


The PCL team used Site Scan to create a flight path for the site, then were able to re-fly the same path to automatically capture scans of the lagoon. This made it easy for them to collect detailed imagery and share frequent progress updates with their client and other stakeholders.


To learn more about how PCL used their scan data in Civil 3D and what their next steps are for their drone program, watch our webinar recording here.

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