Orange County Branch Newsletter

January 2016

Branch News

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)

ASCE Orange County held its December lunch event at the Center Club in Costa Mesa.  We had three presentations on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Drones for private and public works projects, including the California High-Speed Rail.  Our presenters included staff from JL Patterson & Associates, Michael Baker International, and U.S. CAD. The topics presented were related to comparison of a UAV and Drone, applications, operations, and regulations.

Jaqueline L. Patterson and Marc Cañas of J.L. Patterson & Associates (JLP) presented on their use of UAV’s on recent projects including the California High-Speed Train project.  Jacqueline started out by pointing out the differences between a UAV and a drone.  A drone is defined as a remote controlled pilotless aircraft or missile.   Recently drones have been getting negative publicity mainly due to amateur drone operators flying illegally and interfering with sports events and public services such as firefighting efforts.  This is mainly why the word “drone” is not used for engineering applications.

Fixed-Wing UAV

Marc discussed the two types of UAVs, a fixed-wing vehicle and multirotor copter vehicle.  For acquiring aerial ortho photogrammetry and topographical data for large areas, a fixed-wing UAV tends to be the most viable option.  These operate at a higher speed and also have longer range.   The multirotor copter UAV is more applicable for visual inspections such as bridges.  Both types have flight times of 20 to 35 minutes. The accuracy of the UAV’s is impressive.  JLP is able to collect ortho rectified imaging at 1 ½” per pixel which is two times the resolution of a manned aerial product.  In addition, JLP was able to turn around a one or two-mile corridor collection within two weeks whereas a conventional manned aircraft collection and processing is estimated to take three full weeks longer for the same distance.

JLP utilizes UAV’s anywhere they can provide their clients the advantages of higher accuracy, faster delivery of mapping products, and less expensive mapping methods.  JLP is one of only 1,500 companies in the country with a FAA 333 Exemption and Marc is one of JLP’s qualified Pilot-In-Charge which is required to operate a UAV.  JLP has flown over 75 flights in the past 3 months and they expect to that number to increase drastically in the near future.  JLP provided an impressive simulation of a recent project along California west coast where the flight was over several miles of trackway.  JLP is featured in the December 2015 article for the California High-Speed Rail,

Bryan Tuschhoff and Doug Zeissner of Michael Baker International presented on applications and regulations of UAV’s.  Similar to the previous presenters, Bryan made a distinction between UAV’s and drones.  As it turns out, FAA has a preferred terminology for an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), which is also another name for a UAV.

Michael Baker International utilizes both fixed-wing and multirotor UAV’s on their projects which includes the following markets:

Bryan and Doug also discussed the notable differences between a multirotor and fixed-wing UAV which is listed in the following table:

Another comparison is the applications for a multirotor and fixed-wing UAV listed in the following table:

A critical aspect of utilizing UAVs is regulations.  Bryan noted that FAA is beginning to allow UAV operations.  He noted that there is a two-step process for being qualified to fly a UAV.  This involves filing a Petition For Exemption under Section 333 and applying for and receiving a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA).  FAA also requires a licensed pilot as the Pilot-In-Charge Start and a Visual Observe (VO).
Bryan and Doug also noted, as the previous presenters, their experience in providing significant cost and time savings to their clients by using UAVs.    Michael Baker International’s UAS capabilities include:
  • Designed for aerial mapping  of small to mid-sized projects.
  • Rapid deployment
  • Fully backed by 75 years of mapping experience.
  • ISO certified LiDAR processing
  • One stop shop includes surveying also
James Lord of USCAD and Ed Tallmadge of CyberCAD presented on applications and regulations of UAVs and Drones.  Ed and James brought a different perspective in that they had experience in building their own drones.  They were able to bring an actual drone to the presentation.
The following are key learning objectives for drone applications:
  • Get a basic understanding of the developing commercial drone uses and applicatins in regard to current regulations and laws
  • Understand what type of drone works best, safety tips and get basic understanding of camera resolution
  • Learn how to import drone data into Autodesk RECAP software then learn how to edit and export clouds
  • Learn how to import into AutoCAD, Civil 3D, Revit, Navisworks, Infraworks and 3D Studio Max

Ed noted that regulations for Drones and UAVs are the same.  Ed also cautioned that laws and regulations can vary in different cities, states and countries.  There are some cities that have laws forbidding UAVs.  As an example the state of Virginia imposed a two-year ban on use of UAV’s and California Assembly approves limits in drones for paparazzi.  The following website provides drone laws in different parts of the United States:

Ed stressed being smart and safe in using drones.  One needs to use common sense otherwise it can lead to incidents that would result in an “Reckless Endangerment Charge”.  James discussed equipment mainly selection and application of various cameras including GoPros, I-Phones, and Nikon cameras.

Ed presented a project where drone was used to take data on an existing structure.  Their client was interested in several structure features including the existing pitch of the roof.  Ed provided a step by step process that started with the flight to data collection to importing into AutoCad to developing 3D images.  The final model allowed the client to determine the scope of work for structure improvements.

Existing structure being flown
Pilot navigating UAV over existing structure.
In closing, the demand for UAV and Drone applications in engineering is growing mainly due to the cost effectiveness, schedule savings, site/project accessibility, ease of data collection and processing, and quality of end product.

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