Community Spotlight: Russ Gibbs

This month we’re shining the light on a stellar individual who worked closely with our team (including our CEO, Mike Winn) on such short notice for an event in Washington DC. You read it right. We headed to the Nation’s Capital earlier this month to share our thoughts on the future of commercial drones, and we had the pleasure of Russ Gibbs, the Director of Innovation and Operational Tech at Brasfield and Gorrie, representing the construction industry during the session. Without further ado, let’s hear it for our second Industry Expert in construction.


What is your background and current role? What are your core responsibilities?
I went to Auburn University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Architecture. Throughout my education, I always looked for hands-on construction experiences. After graduation, I joined a traditional architecture firm on the Gulf Coast of Florida and specialized in New Urban Developments. During that time, I gained experience in 3D modeling, master planning, web development, and IT infrastructure. Upon moving to Birmingham, AL I joined Brasfield and Gorrie as their third hire dedicated to BIM. I helped grow that group to a 41 person department over 7 offices. I also started the Innovation and Operational Technology Department where I help the company focus on more long-term projects that are shaping our industry, as well as identify where additional company resources need to be focused. I currently am the Director of both the Virtual Design and Construction group and the Innovational and Operational Technology group for Brasfield and Gorrie.

How did you become involved in the drone industry or with drones?
As a part of the BIM process, we became focused on the drones’ ability to create 3D photogrammetry models to overlay them onto the BIM models for quality control. We understood that drones were a useful tool in inspections, imagery, and videography, but the real long-term investment was made because of the 3D data that could integrate into the BIM process.

If drones are a part of your day-to-day, what role do they play?
Owners still like seeing project updates, so that’s still the greatest request. Inspections are pretty high on the priority list as well, but our goal is to move drones onto the job sites and eventually allow our project teams to take ownership of both the flights and data. Drone imagery is bringing the project site to the people in the office. If that vision scales, all of our projects will be accessible by all of our people, resulting in better integration and the ability to put the experience where it needs to be.


How did you and/or your team come across DroneDeploy? Why was it ultimately the solution you decided on?
We were pretty high on Skycatch and Kespry in the beginning as a scalable solution, but then we realized how fast DJI hardware was advancing in the industry. Given that the hardware was also becoming dispensable, we focused on software companies that partnered with DJI and offered us scalable solutions. That was DroneDeploy. At that point, we kind of guessed and took a risk because they were so new, but ultimately the guess paid off because we are very satisfied with the product.

What was the biggest challenge when introducing drones to your company and/or projects?
For sure regulation. We started flying before the 333 and went through the time period where we were grounded for commercial use. When the 333 was implemented we had 1 pilot and paid for a second to get his license. It was a huge hurdle because the cost to fly a drone was not practical. Since the Part 107 our operation has scaled tremendously. We now have over thirty-five Part 107 certified pilots and over 17 drones in operation. Now with instant approval from the FAA, we see this opening a lot of previously closed doors.

What were some of the biggest successes?
Having our project teams use and integrate data in their day-to-day planning, as well as having our company founder champion our drone program and its growth. He is the reason we purchased our second drone.


What other technology are you hoping to integrate?
We’d like to see some more 3D models (BIM), scheduling updates, Artificial Intelligence for tracking, or sensors incorporated into our workflow.

What advice do you have with beginner drone mappers?
It’s not as hard as it looks. Being able to communicate the benefit to the end user is much harder than the drone flight or the mapping itself.

What advice do you have with experienced drone mappers?
I don’t have anything to share other than a thank you for helping pave the way by realizing the opportunity in this industry. This really helps our industry attract young professionals interested in challenging traditional methods.


Thanks for sharing your commentary and experiences with us, Russ. We look forward to seeing and hearing more about the drone operations at Brasfield and Gorrie, and can’t wait to see what else you’ll do to revolutionize the science and art of construction.

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