For many projects, this may include the involvement of drones or pilot-less aerial systems, LiDAR, and other advanced technologies for surveying and engineering. These advancements could bring significant safety and site management improvements and business enhancements, thanks to expedited speeds and costs. Machine control is one such advancement, using software and hardware to transmit and receive data from project sites to work from designs and 3D models, improving the efficiency of onsite work and the ease of engineering project layout.
Machine Control as a Cutting-Edge Tool
Machine control uses sensors and GPS receivers on graders, excavators, or ground points around sites, earthworks, and construction zones. A GPS base station can send data to earthmoving machines to tell them exactly where and how deep to dig. This evolves the way we work with contractors, providing them with tools to help them work more accurately and more quickly, saving both time and money. There’s no need for manual markers, pegs, stakes, or batter rails for the engineering project layout — the plan is managed digitally.
Producing accurate site models is critical for identifying potential problems before breaking ground or issues that would be difficult to detect absent such advancements. InnoSurv helps make machine control models for various software and controllers, including Topcon and Trimble.
Ideal Applications for Machine Control
Machine control works seamlessly with building information modeling (BIM). BIM allows a virtual site to be created before it’s built in the field, using information from UAS and LiDAR to help flag costly problems and enable contractors to deal with them proactively rather than reactively.
It’s now possible to overlay a virtual model of a project with a LiDAR representation of the current site to see if there are any discrepancies. For example, existing pipework could cause conflict with new utility connections. LiDAR will highlight the existing pipes, and the BIM model will highlight the new piping system, allowing contractors to quickly assess what needs to be done to address these issues. Contractors can take the relevant data and plug it into their grading machines and controllers to adjust the engineering project layout and move forward with the project’s next phase.
Many variables go into producing an accurate model. Ground control has to be established, and for that, some traditional surveying methods may still be relevant, even necessary. GPS ground points provide accurate stationary points that align the 3D models. Without these ground points, any 3D modeling may be inaccurate. Ground control helps ensure that contractors get accurate data about the site.
Take the example of highway interchange creation. Vast amounts of materials need to be moved, stockpiled, and quantified to ensure the right resources are sent to the site. Drones and LiDAR help create dynamic 3D models of the earthworks, accurately and continuously assessing the volume of materials without repeat visits to the site. Contractors can quickly quantify how much material they have stockpiled without any guesswork. It’s critical to understand that the models don't just provide a visual representation, but use highly granular GPS data to calculate the precise volume of earth in each stockpile to manage the export and import of materials. These models work together with machine control to let contractors move the right volume of earth effortlessly without disrupting the flow of the project.
The Key Advantages of Machine Control
Machine control enables experts like architects and designers to rapidly adapt to the needs of contractors and allows contractors to quickly and accurately complete projects. However, accurate 3D models aren’t just for contractors and designers -- they can also be made publicly available to engage communities in projects.
For example, a neighborhood update to include safer walkways or a new community center could use BIM to create a virtual fly-through, showing residents what to expect and how the project will rejuvenate their town. Stakeholders such as investors or community planners can quickly understand what they’re getting involved in and a project’s benefits without having to visit sites or monitor the project from start to finish. This also makes life easier for contractors since they don’t have to build time into the construction schedule to liaise continuously with stakeholders throughout the project. It can also garner more support for projects, as there are fewer questions about the viability or usefulness of new buildings or infrastructure updates.
Machine control and BIM modeling help eliminate the process gaps previously evident in traditional construction and engineering projects. Conceptualization and design no longer need to happen outside site surveying. In fact, it benefits contractors and designers alike to have continuous, accurate data from the UAS and LiDAR. Plus, the incredibly detailed models for earthworks or existing infrastructures help hone and finalize designs that work in the real world, the first time. InnoSurv creates a holistic approach where all aspects of the engineering process work together, taking advantage of these large data point clouds to create efficient projects that cost less and get built faster.
For more information on this topic, contact Engineering Surveys & Services and speak to a member of our expert team. With over 60 years of experience in civil engineering, surveying, construction support, and analytical testing, we can find a solution to even the most complex issues thanks to our focus on technological advances and industry-leading tools.