If you’ve tuned in to several construction focused DroneDeploy webinars or even attended DroneDeploy Day last year, our summer Community superstar of the month will look mighty familiar to you. Say howdy to Grant Hagen, a Virtual Design & Construction (VDC) Manager at The Beck Group.
What is your background and current role? What are your core responsibilities?
I have been with The Beck Group for a little over 6.5 years and have worn quite a few hats in my time here so far. I have a degree in Engineering and joined The Beck Group in 2012 as a Project Engineer. I started onsite at one of our larger projects at the time performing typical project management roles that included material procurement, project documentation, schedule coordination, and trade coordination.
After some time as a Project Engineer, I transitioned into a more corporate role and helped with some Operational Technology initiatives for our Architecture and Construction staff. Once I got those initiatives off the ground, I started researching the uses and developments of drones that I had been working towards from my early days on project sites.
All of that has led me to my current role in working on our Virtual Building Group Services team. which provides both in-house and out of house services for our project teams. It all relates to reality capture and project documentation, which includes drones.
How did you become involved in the drone industry or with drones?
It was on my first project as a Project Engineer where I saw the value drones could bring to projects by incorporating them into our workflows to give us a greater site awareness of various tasks that were typically time consuming or challenging to perform safely.
We first tested some applications with inspections back in 2013 with the Phantom 2 Vision, and quickly realized drones were not toys, but incredible tools we could put to work for us.
At the time, we needed to become 333 compliant with a Sport Pilot license, so The Beck Group sent me through Ground School to start our drone program in 2015. We continued to test our program and by July 2016 we were fully operational and able to implement the use of drones on projects.
2017 was our first financial year in investing in drone hardware and building our fleet of equipment and pilots with the Part 107 changes in June 2017. After successfully implementing drones on over 75% of our projects in the Dallas Fort Worth area that year, we knew with confidence that we were in a great position to build our drone program into a more structured approach to serve our staff for 2018.
If drones are a part of your day-to-day, what role do they play?
A typical work week involves visiting 2-3 job sites to either help teams document their work, or train our staff to operate the drone by themselves. We currently have a fleet of about ten pilots and ten units across three different regional offices to help support these needs.
How did you and/or your team come across DroneDeploy? Why was it ultimately the solution you decided on?
We came across Drone Deploy in 2016 when they were starting to develop the first automated flight operator platform for mapping. We had been testing other platforms with the same goal of autonomous flight, but found DroneDeploy to be the easiest and most concise platform in this area to meet our needs of consistent, easy, and quality aerial data.
What was the biggest challenge when introducing drones to your company and/or projects?
It was difficult to overcome the perception that they are more like toys than tools and that they can actually bring and deliver a tremendous amount of value to project teams at all phases of the project. Once the teams see the value, and the amount of work it takes, they quickly want to be a part of the action and utilize in their workflows.
What were some of the biggest successes?
While there are quite a few stories of various “wins” in using these tools, I’d say one of the biggest successes is that we are starting to see more informed decisions happening sooner and more effectively from the data (like photos, videos, and model data) gathered. We know these tools are continuing to provide value since more and more project teams are requesting them. To me, that has always been something to celebrate a success in.
What other technology are you hoping to integrate?
We have quite a history and experience with LiDAR and laser scanning workflows for traditional interior or terrestrial scans, and we are really excited about seeing that technology integrating with drones in the near future.
Other things we are keeping our eye on are thermal applications with tools like FLiR and how we can utilize different cameras and sensors on these drones to complete different workflows.
What advice do you have with beginner drone mappers?
Start somewhere. Doesn’t matter if it’s a farm, field, your house, or a park. Get familiar with the tools that are available and see what you can produce with them. Most importantly, have fun doing it! Become a student to find out all the ins and outs of what is possible!
What advice do you have with experienced drone mappers?
Spend more time listening to your clients, project teams, or executives on what the needs of the project are. Don’t go in telling them what they need - listen and find opportunities to meet those needs with what you already know drone imagery can provide.
These are all wise words, Grant, and thanks for sharing them! We definitely love the encouragement for folks to get out there and just start somewhere. It doesn’t matter what industry you start in for drone mapping, so long as you get out there and familiarize yourself with your setup and environment.
So, what are you waiting for? Go out there and do as Grant says - fly!