Coastwide Civil is the primary contractor on a complex harbour excavation project at Shellharbour, on the NSW south coast. The new boat harbour forms part of the Shell Cove development project and, upon completion, will include 300 wet berths and a platform for associated harbour-side development and facilities on the 20-hectare site.
Scott Rogers is Head Surveyor and a Director of the company, which specialises in marine and civil contracting and is based in Albion Park, south of Wollongong, New South Wales.
Scotts’ survey team recently made its first venture into aerial mapping with an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) and is experiencing significant time savings and improved project documentation as a result. The company also uses Tokara Link telematics to remotely manage design updates and support for earthmoving machinery fitted with Topcon machine control.
“This is a large site that involves a number of different designs and a variety of materials, including excavation in an acid sulphate environment and old tip waste removal,” Scott said.
“The UAVs caught my eye when I received a marketing email from Position Partners, who we’ve had a good business relationship with for many years. I thought they could be an ideal solution for this project and save a lot of time compared with traditional survey methods,” he said.
Fast, efficient and safe surveying
Scott uses a Falcon 8 multi-rotor UAS to conduct daily stockpile volume reports across the site. Position Partners have continued to support Scott and his team, by providing the SIRIUS UAV to assist with two end of month surveys.
“The Falcon 8 is perfect for conducting smaller aerial surveys and doing my daily volume reports,” Scott said. “The stockpiles are quite large, generally between 3000 – 4000 cubic metres, making them dangerous and difficult for field survey crew to climb over with GPS.
“I simply head out each day with the Falcon 8 and use the ‘Quick Survey’ feature to map the stockpile in five to ten minutes,” he said. “There’s no need for a laptop or any other equipment and as soon as I’m done the stockpile can be sent to the crusher. It’s a very fast, efficient and safe way to survey.”
Scott found the learning and CASA certification process wasn’t as difficult as people might assume. “Yes, there’s a process you have to go through and regulations you have to abide by, you can’t just pick up one of these systems and start using it. I attended a fast-track, 7-day course with Position Partners and once you’ve completed the training and got your licence you’re all set. Using the UAV and extracting the data is a very simple process.”
As with any new technology, receiving support and training is all-important. “We’ve been well looked after by Gavin and the team at Position Partners, they are always on hand if we need them. We had a technical fault with our first system and they kept us running by conducting surveys for us while the UAV was getting repaired,” Scott said.
Each month, Scott enlists Position Partners’ services to conduct a full site survey using the fixed wing SIRIUS UAV by MAVinci, which is better suited to large scale aerial mapping projects.
“Using UAS technology for the site survey gives us access to valuable data and accurate historical documentation at each stage of the project,” Scott said. “Because there are so many types of material on this site and the fact that we are over-excavating areas of the harbour floor in order to backfill it with waste material, keeping accurate records of what has been placed and where, is important.”
He said this level of visual documentation simply wouldn’t be possible with traditional survey methods. “Traditionally you would document the material types and quantities, but having the ability to go back in time and visually look at any given stage of the project is very powerful.
“On this project there are many vertical faces on the harbour floor. It is important to keep accurate survey records of these as it impacts upon the future design harbour infrastructure. Because we have complete models from each month, it is easy to check that everything is constructed to design and we can easily show this data to the client at any stage, now or in the future.”
Scott explained that the monthly UAS surveys save about a day’s work each month and are a far safer and more efficient solution to traditional survey methods. “Gavin from Position Partners normally flies the site with the SIRIUS on a Friday, which takes about an hour and gives me 2500 photos to process. I then setup the post-processing to run over the weekend so that I have a ready-to-go data set on Monday morning to complete my invoices with,” he said.
Using traditional methods, the same process would involve two and a half days of in-field data capture with a survey crew, followed by a day of data analysis. “Although the end result for getting invoices done would be the same, the data I have from the UAV is comprehensive,” said Scott. “I can conduct fly-throughs of the entire site in a 3D, virtual environment from my office using Virtual Surveyor software. I can see each layer of rock, clay and topsoil at the click of a mouse.”
Keeping machines on track
Another time-saver that keeps Scott and his team in the office and away from the heat and flies on site, is the use of telematics to remotely manage the designs on earthmoving machinery across the project.
“We use Topcon GPS systems across a number of dozers, excavators and graders on site and Position Partners’ Tokara Link system enables us to login to each machine from the office to update the machine to a new design file or troubleshoot a problem,” he said.
Tokara Link removes the need for surveyors to visit a machine in person and transfer a design file via a USB to the control box. Instead, they simply connect to the machine using the Internet and transfer the design remotely.
“Tokara is a great solution and it saves us a lot of time,” Scott said. “If an operator is having technical problems, we try to solve it ourselves first but if we need help, the team at Position Partners in Sydney simply logs in from their office and most of the time we can resolve the problem without anyone actually needing to go out on site and visit the machine.”