WingtraOne takes road surveys to the next level of speed, savings and safety

The T2 highway is a major artery of traffic connecting Estonia’s two most populated cities—Tallinn and Tartu. The freeway experiences average daily traffic of 22,000 motorists around Tallinn and 11,000 around Tartu. With twists and turns, it presents not only congestion but danger to those who use it. For this reason the government has begun a major project to expand the stretch of highway connecting these two cities from two to four lanes.

Road construction depends on accurate survey measurements, not only to ensure the quality of the road, but also to keep the costs down by gathering volume information to compare with contractor agreements. Vaiko Veeleid is the CEO of Hades Geodeesia, a 30 year-old surveying firm that is tasked with providing survey data services to the government for this project.

To gather higher-accuracy results while giving clients more information, faster, Veeleid has been exploring drone tech for five years. Since he brought WingtraOne onboard at Hades, he said it’s proving to be the go-to equipment for his team on large projects like T2. 

Massive areas to survey, corridor mapping of large areas at high accuracies, tight timelines and need for frequent data updates

We see that the data drones provide can offer much more insight to clients. For example, if we fly with a WingtraOne, we can get high-accuracy gravel volumes. Plus, we can give them clear visual information, a site overview and archives so they can always check back to reconcile work.

Vaiko Veeleid
CEO, Hades Geodeesia

Why accurate volumetrics matter in road construction surveying

Hades flies WingtraOne every month over the stretch of road under construction at a given time. The government needs these results, especially, to double check the amount of sand and gravel brought to the site or moved around by contractors. Their estimates weren’t matching the contractors’ amounts, but ground-based surveys were not offering enough data to prove this when it came time to pay for what contractor’s claimed.

“We control the construction guys’ volumes, which they calculate themselves,” Veeleid said. “Whatever they bring on the site, we now control these amounts with WingtraOne data. Since we started, the contractors began to use drones as well. The difference we are finding between our figures and the contractors’ is about two and a half percent. With these controls, everyone is clear, and the information is now lining up.”

These monthly surveys are making a big difference in the amount of time saved. They’re also offering a much higher resolution and accuracy view of operations than terrestrial surveys allow; a view that most likely saves the government thousands of Euros.

If I have to do a survey the ordinary way, with a GPS rover, it will take much more time, and the information is just points. But if I provide it with a drone, it’s very visual and understandable to everyone. The drone photogrammetry accuracy with WingtraOne is very impressive. Very accurate.

Vaiko Veeleid
CEO, Hades Geodeesia

Volumetric breakdown of costs at two sites along T2

1 Asphalt 2 Short one gravel 3 Short two gravel

While it may seem like a road is just a strip of pavement across the land, a lot goes into planning and construction for a highway to resist the threat of erosion. Specifically, roads require gravel foundation layers to secure the Earth and hold the top layer of asphalt level. Different kinds of gravel (in this case “short one” and “short two”), containing different sizes of stones, are layered to create a stabilizing effect. Below we see their cost per cubic meter and estimate reconciliation figures.

Short gravel on highway
  2-3% margin error   10% margin error

Contractors and clients must agree on volumes so they can reconcile payment around work and material costs. If both parties use terrestrial methods to get these volumes, the accuracy from both sides is low. This causes the numbers to differ on average 10 percent, which makes it harder to agree on the amounts (because one side will lose money).

Hades uses WingtraOne to measure volumes at a high accuracy. The contractor started using drones as well. When both sides present high-accuracy estimates, the difference between their numbers narrows to about 2.5 percent. The money lost is reduced and the reconciliation process speeds up.

Kase-Ardu survey area

Short one gravel
272,032 m2 x 0.12 m x 38.5 €/m3
million €
Total agreed estimate

A 10 % difference in estimation
000 €
Difference between contractor and subcontractor estimates
A 2.5 % difference in estimation
500 €
Difference between contractor and subcontractor estimates

Gravel cost adds up. With high-accuracy WingtraOne drone data, Hades pushes the accuracy standard up so the contractor must measure with drones too. Using terrestrial methods, the difference between real volume and measured volume is averaged around 10 percent. Without drones, at least this much money is under discussion, costing clients or contractors a lot and making reconciliation a huge challenge.

Short two gravel
324,802 m2 x 0.25 m x 17.64 €/m3
million €
Total agreed estimate

A 10 % difference in estimation
000 €
Difference between contractor and subcontractor estimates
A 2.5 % difference in estimation
750 €
Difference between contractor and subcontractor estimates

Richer infrastructure survey data, faster

In addition to controlling volumes, Veeleid said WingtraOne data enables site managers to evaluate how the dozers and motograders are leveling the sand to ensure the smoothness of the freeway pavement. He said just two years ago he couldn’t have imagined doing this. So the quest for better systems is now paying off more than he even imagined.

Veeleid said he can cover 3 km (1.8 mi) in a 45 minute flight with WingtraOne and its RX1R II PPK payload and gather data at 1.2 cm (0.5 in) GSD. To walk this, he’d need 3-4 hours to collect data points.

“And then I only get the top of the road,” he explained. “I don’t get the trenches. If I must also survey the trench on foot, it will take me up to eight hours to walk it.”

Veeleid said there are as many as 200 similar companies providing the same services to the same region where Hades operates. But they rely on classical survey methods. In efforts to find new solutions, Veeleid and his team have proven that a drone like WingtraOne replaces all that time-intensive groundwork.

Road construction point cloud Road construction elevation model

A segment of the highway rendered from WingtraOne data as a point cloud (left) and a digital elevation model (right) offers rich insight, including highly-accurate location details and measurements.

It doesn’t make sense to go outside and walk for three to four hours and get about 500 points and make calculations, when I can take the drone and fly for a half an hour, process the data, and I get the same or better results than the ordinary way.

Vaiko Veeleid
CEO, Hades Geodeesia

“It’s very important that a drone is easy to use”

By eliminating so much walking around in busy construction environments, drones reduce safety hazards considerably. “We don’t know what’s around the corner when we walk in these areas,” Veeleid said. “There can be water, soft areas and so on.”

Since WingtraOne offers a fully automated option, it takes off from and lands in a predictable and tight space without requiring the operator to risk entering the construction site. While it already handled wind on par with its competitors, over the past several software updates, it has improved its landing capabilities and handles wind even better.

“I’ve heard no complaints at all about Wingtra,” Veeleid said. “And with the last software update, the landing improved and the wind resistance is better. We have corridor mapping and, of course, it always helps that we can land in limited spaces. It’s very important that a drone is easy to use, and WingtraOne is.”

What do road survey crews do?

  1. Set up bridges and fences to prepare for building
  2. Provide topographical information of the site to be paved
  3. Provide road model data  to machinery to work at specific elevations
  4. Assist site owners in analyzing volumetric and other critical data sets
  5. Provide as-needed information to owners used to reconcile contracts
  6. Provide finalized as-built surveys to review the project
  7. Provide maintenance information

It all comes down to the right equipment

WingtraOne was not the first drone that Hades used to collect data. In fact they realized the power of photogrammetry with the help of quadcopters like DJI Phantom and Inspire 1. But, like many survey firms, they quickly discovered that quadcopters are limited in their coverage. Hades surveyors needed a more powerful drone that could cover large areas and deliver the high accuracy their clients demand. After trying out a professional classic fixed-wing drone, they were not impressed by the setup complexity and were happy to find Wingtra.

“We found WingtraOne, and that was perfect,” Veeleid said. “It’s much better to handle and control, and the setup is very easy. You don’t need to be very professional if I compare it with the other fixed-wing we tried: it needs two pilots to set up, its flight planning is very complicated, and the flight itself is okay, but you need to be trained to land this plane in one piece.”

Mapping the same road two years ago, we used another drone, covering 3 km (1.8 mi) of road per day. Right now, in that same time, we cover the whole road, 22 km (14 mil), with WingtraOne. Our pilot in the field has a WingtraOne, a Phantom, Sirius and a Falcon, and if I told him ‘please go and get some measurements,’ every time he picks Wingtra.

Vaiko Veeleid
CEO, Hades Geodeesia

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