Drones Help Civil Engineers Enhance Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans
HHNT Engineering improves on-site productivity up to 50% and provides clients with accurate aerial insights using DroneDeploy
Let’s talk a little trash. The literal kind. Drones and garbage might seem like an unlikely combo, but HHNT Consulting Engineers discovered that drones transform the process of creating stormwater pollution prevention plans for solid waste transfer stations and hauling companies.
Drone maps create a highly detailed visual tool that helps sites stay in compliance with state & federal regulations. The new deliverables help manage stormwater runoff with the least environmental impact — and drones increased their team’s productivity by up to 50% over the course of the project.
Mike Crossin and Daniel Windham head the in-house drone program at HHNT. Last summer they mapped 50 transfer stations and hauling companies across Georgia and Alabama. Their team and clients no longer have to rely on basic, black-and-white drawings as visual aids for complex stormwater plans. With DroneDeploy’s cloud-based mapping platform, they have an efficient, collaborative tool that brings EPA-mandated Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans to life.
“With DroneDeploy, we went from zero to 100. We were able to go from something somebody could have created, honestly, a hundred years ago, to something you couldn’t have created two years ago.” — Daniel Windham, HHNT Engineers
Drones Help Create High-Resolution, Location-Specific Visual Aids
Every landfill and transfer station must have an up-to-date Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan in place to meet regulatory requirements. The plans, designed by environmental engineers, address everything from the path stormwater travels on a landfill site to the cleanup process if an incident occurs.
Each plan includes visual aids to help clients understand its requirements, such as where to take stormwater samples. Before drones, engineers created these visual aids as diagrams using the information gathered on foot and through conventional surveying during a site visit.
There were two major limitations to this system. For the engineers making the designs, it was a very time-consuming process to put these diagrams together. The designs also lacked aerial imagery. This meant that it was challenging for HHNT and their clients to quickly orient themselves on the site.
“Before drones, we were working with black and white, not-to-scale field maps in AutoCAD. These lacked the aerial imagery and details provide by drones, which made it difficult for multiple operators to quickly determine their locations and seek out areas of importance.” — Daniel Windham, HHNT Engineering
Now, with drone maps, the HHNT team can add annotations onto accurate, up-to-date aerial imagery. They point employees to geo-referenced points, examine site features in detail, visualize the path of water flow on a site, and even use drone maps to check elevations for drainage. The improved level of detail provided by aerial maps has led to an increase in team efficiency.
DroneDeploy Increases Efficiencies and Improves the Accuracy of Stormwater Plans
As the HHNT team discovered, the benefits of drone maps go far beyond the pretty pictures. They leveraged DroneDeploy’s cloud-based platform and app market to increase efficiency, collaboration, and accuracy at every step of the process.
Daniel and Mike mapped 50 transfer stations and hauling companies across two states with drones. Their record was eighteen sites in three days. That is 50% faster than with the previous workflow. Daniel credits their efficiency to DroneDeploy’s built-in flight planning and cloud-based platform. He set up the flight plans ahead of time, so when Mike arrived on site, he was ready to fly. From back at the office, Daniel could access the map and share it with engineers in less than 48 hours.
This increased efficiency extended to the engineering team also. With drawings in hand, they went to each site visit more prepared, able to focus on problem areas that they identified and annotated ahead of time in DroneDeploy.
Because they worked within DroneDeploy’s cloud-based platform, the team could collaborate in real time. If Mike arrived at a site and noticed unexpected construction or site changes, he could easily share these changes with the team back at the office. Likewise, Daniel was able to share and collaborate with the engineering team in real time through the DroneDeploy platform.
But the most significant return on investment for HHNT was the increased accuracy of the final Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans.
“When the engineers create the plans, they don’t have to depend on just the site visit and field sketches,” says Daniel. “Or, did they remember to take a picture of everything important on the site? With the drone, you don’t have to worry about that. It’s all right there in front of you.”
Now, instead of black and white plans and diagrams, HHNT imports their drone maps into ArcGIS and overlays accurate, location-specific diagrams and annotations that their clients use to maintain compliance and the highest standard of environmental management.
Where to Learn More
- Senior leadership at HHNT approached Daniel and Mike about building a drone program, but not everyone has such an easy road. Check out our tips on Getting the Green Light for Your In-House Drone Program from executive leadership.
- Drone maps have already revolutionized industrial job sites, but in many ways, the advancements are just beginning. Read our blog post Drones and the Job Sites of the Future to stay up to speed on next for drones.