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How UAVs and data are improving decision making

Joe Segretto,

In today’s marketplace, many organizations realize that good data is the key to good decision making. As a society, we are looking to technology to help us gather, store, and analyze more and more data to help make those decisions. One technology that is exploding on the scene to fill this need is the technology of unmanned aircraft vehicles.

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly known as drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are remotely controlled aircraft piloted from the ground. UAVs, which can be operated by a human pilot or a computer that has been pre-programed with a flight plan, offer a wide variety of potential applications that are already being used in the engineering industry.

When fitted with the appropriate sensors, UAVs are recording everything from survey grade aerial photography to LIDAR (light detection and radar) imagery—offering a way to access data that was previously unavailable, and can now be turned into actionable information to drive our data-driven decision making.

For an integrated engineering solutions company like OBG, Part of Ramboll, which provides diverse services that are creating innovative and sustainable solutions for clients, incorporating UAVs as a tool for our scientists and engineers provides many benefits, and perhaps none larger than helping to promote our safety culture. UAVs extend the reach of our people and allow difficult tasks, and potentially otherwise dangerous tasks, to be executed safely and efficiently.

As we continue to launch our UAV technology across the company, our ability to acquire highly-accurate mapping and imagery is becoming even more evident. Traditionally, many projects start with a land survey. For larger sites, a land survey could take upwards of a weeks’ time in the field and possibly additional weeks to post processing and generating CAD drawings to establish current site conditions. With the addition of UAV technology, we can fly to a project site within hours and provide accurate maps with topography as soon as the next day.

Now, opportunity lies in finding areas where drones will alter, be incorporated into, or even replace elements of our current workflows. Land development programs, emergency management, infrastructure projects, and construction operations will benefit from the variety of quality and current data products collected from UAVs. With access to new types of remotely sensed data at levels of detail never before seen, scientists and engineers are starting to think differently about how to solve problems.

Combined with other advances in technology like artificial intelligence and machine learning, we can teach computers how to identify objects or make predictions on where problems may occur. Looking to the future, it is easy to see how UAV technology can provide a springboard to solutions yet to be created.

About Joe Segretto: Joe, GIS Applications Manager at OBG, Part of Ramboll has more than 18 years of experience working with GIS. He applies his technical expertise in GIS, GPS, and data management to help OBG deliver innovative solutions to clients. Joe holds a master’s degree in geography from Ohio University and is an ESRI Certified Enterprise System Design Associate. Joe can be contacted at: Joe.Segretto@obg.com.

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