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POB Column: Drones Help Survey After Thomas Wildfires

POB Column: Drones Help Survey After Thomas Wildfires

In the most recent issue of Point of Beginning magazine, Aerotas highlight the work of one of our most prolific clients: WM Surveys of Ventura, California. 

The past year has provided ample evidence for how prone our world is to natural disasters. From record-breaking hurricanes in the Gulf, to fires, landslides, and earthquakes on the West Coast. William Meagher of WM Surveys called us even before the massive Thomas Wildfire was contained in the Ventura area. He knew that they were about to be flooded with an absolutely overwhelming amount of reconstruction and forensic survey work to do as soon as the fires were extinguished, and he knew he didn't have the manpower to accommodate it.

Mr. Meagher asked around among his national survey community and learned about the massive time savings of the Aerotas drone survey system from another Aerotas client, Clark Land Surveying in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

In doing this, Mr. Meagher demonstrated admirable forethought that the land survey industry should learn from. Due to nationwide shortages of surveyors, even on regular days, many land surveyor firms are struggling to keep up with demand for their work. When an unexpected natural disaster strikes, they stand no chance of keeping up with the work. When this happens, they risk being a brake on the reconstruction process, causing unnecessary cost and delay for already hard-hit residents and businesses. 

Read below how WM Surveys used the Aerotas drone surveying system to survey as fast as possible after the Thomas Wildfire, while still ensuring survey-grade accuracy. Read the full article at Point of Beginning. If you are ready to enable your business to ensure you can keep up with unexpected spikes in capacity, visit aerotas.com/drone-survey.


Drones Help Survey After Thomas Wildfires

Speeding Up Reconstruction Surveying

The greatest benefit of a drone program for a surveyor’s business is also its primary benefit for reconstruction: speed. With the right operating procedures and know-how, a drone can reduce the time it takes to finish a survey by up to 90 percent. WM Surveys spends as little as 30 minutes on-site to gather data, then, using photo-stitching and CAD linework drafting services, spends mere minutes of office time creating a final survey.

Many survey teams around the country are already facing staff shortages and a hiring crisis. A spike in work from a natural disaster exacerbates this challenge. The time savings of a good drone program mitigates this by serving as a force multiplier. WM Surveys is now doing in less than 30 minutes what would have taken more than four hours.

Saving so much time on every survey means that WM Surveys is speeding up the recovery process, helping get residents back on their feet faster. This eases the burden on homeowners and the ultimate cost of the fires without sacrificing WM Surveys’ own business bottom line.

After the Thomas Fire, landmarks were gone, terrain was different, and with so many homes destroyed, the structures that remained were randomly located. It is disorienting and makes the most basic planning for clearing and rebuilding extremely challenging. Providing a clear picture of existing conditions to homeowners, insurance adjusters, government officials, and builders is invaluable in these circumstances.

On standard projects, many surveyors rely on Google Earth to serve this basic need for a visual, but even in the best circumstances, that imagery is outdated and inaccurate. After a fire, Google Earth is even less viable. Within a matter of hours, WM Surveys can create a high-resolution 3D image of a property in a simple web-viewer that residents, builders, and other stakeholders can easily use for planning. Importantly, however, this is more than just a pretty picture: it is accurate enough for surveyors to pull locations and elevations. In a post-disaster context when field surveyors’ field notes are going to be even harder to interpret than normal, this site intelligence is invaluable.