The video accompanying this blog post is of the recent construction activity underway at the new Roosevelt Middle School in Eugene.(1) Mahlum and Robertson/Sherwood/Architects designed the state-of-the-art facility, and John Hyland Construction is building it. The $42 million project is on target for completion a year from now.
Commissioned by Eugene School District 4j and shot by Spot On Aerial Photography, the video is a high-definition, cinematic experience that is definitely impressive. Even absent a post-production soundtrack (say, an epic, soaring instrumental), it brings to mind the kind of documentary filmmaking that shows best in an IMAX theater. As an architect, it hardly matters to me that the subject of the video is something as commonplace as a construction site. Recorded through the lens of a camera carried by an unmanned aerial vehicle (AKA a “drone”) it offers unique perspectives that previously were only available to projects that could justify the steep expense of manned flights.
The relatively low cost and proliferation of drones is quickly revolutionizing the way construction companies do business. Inexpensive aerial documentation is increasingly a common means to gauge the progress of a project. More and more, contractors rely upon drones to document jobsite safety practices, identify quality issues, assist with problem-solving, and facilitate dispute resolution.
Additionally, the real-time data gathered by GPS-equipped drones can generate point clouds from which project engineers produce 3D models of the work under construction. Contractors use these models for such varied purposes as measuring bulk quantities of excavation and fill, rapidly confirming layout and staking, and reporting compliance with erosion-control regulations. Users can add audio narration or incorporate GPS data on each video frame with a text-captioning device.
A simple aerial video can take anyone, anywhere, on a journey over the site. Often, the video reveals more than could ever have been seen from the ground. Not surprisingly, realtors and developers are exploiting the marketing potential of aerial videography to great effect. If a virtual walk-thru is great, a virtual flyover is even better.
There are issues with the use of drones. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) strictly regulates their use through Certificates of Authorization (COA) or Experimental Airworthiness Certificates, which to the best of my understanding have been limited in scope. Presently, the FAA is looking at new regulations that would expand the opportunities for businesses like Spot On Aerial Photography to operate drones.
The use of camera-carrying drones grants us superhuman powers. It stirs within us deeply held dreams of flying like birds. It provides us with perspectives we seldom could enjoy before. Aerial videography is mesmerizing because it is so often beautiful and transcendent, even when the focus of the camera’s eye is merely a construction jobsite.
I’m looking forward to seeing many more construction videos shot from drones. They’re fascinating, informative, and fun to watch.
(1) “He was able to see things in the aerial photos that would not have been evident from photos taken on the ground. Then he would mark up and archive the photos so that he would have accurate and timely information to work from the next day.Automated flights will, assuming Google and Amazon will convince regulators to allow them, will pave the way not only for more-frequent aerial progress updates, but also for using photos to generate point clouds that can be used to creating 3D models of work in progress. It’s a feature that Potts believes will revolutionize the precision with which contractors gauge progress and keep projects on schedule and budget. (1) The Register-Guard posted a slideshow on its website with recent (September 4, 2015) photographs of the project under construction: http://registerguard.com/rg/news/local/33472552-75/teachers-staff-tour-new-roosevelt-middle-school-construction-site.html.csp