Levelled out: Aerial Data Provides Ground-Based Advantage on rail Crossing Removal Program

Customer Profile: Founded in 1961, McConnell Dowell Constructors (Aust) Pty Ltd is a leading infrastructure contractor in Australia, New Zealand, and Asia. With headquarters in Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia, the company is best known for its large-scale projects that include roads and bridges, pipelines and railroad assets.

Business Challenge: Develop a collaborative workflow to safely and efficiently complete railroad crossing removals and complete the construction of associated infrastructure.

Solutions:

  • Trimble Stratus
  • Propeller PPK
  • DJI Phantom4 RTK

Benefits:

  • Faster, safer site survey
  • Greater transparency with stakeholders/client
  • Improved visibility into project progress

Australian infrastructure contractor McConnell Dowell has built some of the most challenging roads, rails, dams, pipelines, marine assets, and other infrastructure in Australia, New Zealand, and Southern Asia. The company’s success is largely due to its structured approach to every build, combined with creativity and progressive thinking.

McConnell Dowell strives to continuously improve its processes, often with help from technology. That’s especially true on the company’s latest endeavor, the Level Crossing Removal Program (LXRP). This multi-year program was established by the Victorian Government to oversee one of the largest rail infrastructure projects in the state's history.

The goal is to eliminate 75 level (or flat) rail crossings across metropolitan Melbourne by 2025. Each crossing also includes other rail network upgrades, such as new train stations, track duplication, and train stabling yards. Removing level crossings will improve safety, reduce congestion, improve travel time reliability and increase train operation capacity.

As part of the Western Program Alliance (WPA), which also includes Arup, Mott MacDonald, and Metro Trains Melbourne, McConnell Dowell is charged with removing and renovating a set number of the crossings. To date, the alliance has completed six of the crossing projects and is currently working on another four.

Michael Mongan, Project Director with McConnell Dowell, says, “There are many day-to-day challenges on these sites, as they are typically very large, in some cases upwards of 6km long. And we’re working within an operational light rail environment, so trains are flying by at 100km an hour. In the early days, a lot of the communication was happening via photography or just verbally delivered.”

“Just surveying the individual project sites was a challenge,” adds John Dyer, Engineering Manager with WPA. “Even the best surveyor in the world might only survey on five- or 10-meter grids, so we would only get a snapshot of that particular point or area, which then had to be interpolated on a 2D drawing. We needed a way to survey the whole site quickly to provide a timely resource for optimal collaboration and project management.”

McConnell Dowell looked to drone-enabled solutions. After evaluating several platforms, the company selected Trimble Stratus, powered by Propeller—and put it to work.

SEE Civil takes flight with Trimble, SITECH and Propeller

When SEE Civil wanted to advance its unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) survey drone program, they turned to Trimble, Propeller and SITECH Construction Systems.

SEE Civil has more than 30 years of experience completing a wide variety of projects encompassing all aspects of civil construction and urban development.

The company also offers plant management and runs a quarrying operation to create an integrated approach to project delivery. SEE Civil teams have a wide range of experience across civil construction projects including building roads, bridges and rail, earthworks, and water, sewer and utility civil infrastructure work.

Across the scope of its projects, SEE Civil uses professional surveyors to complete a range of activities, such as surveying construction sites for the placement of buildings, roads, and utility lines, producing topographic and hydrographic maps, calculating volumetric measurements and more.

Previously, SEE Civil relied primarily on conventional surveying techniques and some UAV survey drones.

The company turned to Trimble partner and worksite expert Propeller and SITECH Construction Systems for help advancing its UAV program.

The SEE Civil team wanted the ability to use UAV drones in conjunction with traditional survey processes to quickly gather high-resolution geospatial images and to collect critical survey-grade data about their construction sites. The company also wanted to implement a more cohesive survey methodology to track project progress and to maximise productivity across its jobs.

Propeller recommended leveraging Trimble Stratus software, Trimble Business Centre and Propeller’s data analytics and visualisation platform, AeroPoints, with SEE Civil’s drone program.

The team’s survey drones include positioning technologies, image-processing algorithms and imaging sensors. Combining Trimble’s advanced software with the drone’s high-resolution 3D mapping solutions is allowing the team to capture geo-referenced aerial images with razor-sharp resolution across its projects very quickly.

“Now we have access to accurate, up-to-date topographic surveys whenever we need them, without the constraints of traditional survey,” said Cameron Brittain, SEE Group General Manager of technology and digital engineering. “We can easily check our design and answer questions quickly, reducing bottlenecks.”

Brittain likes that Trimble Stratus and AeroPoints take the complexity out of performing measurements and calculations and that it supports virtual collaboration, so construction teams have the answers they need almost immediately.

“We were looking for the ability to capture, analyse, and share accurate data about our worksites and assets,” Brittain said. “Now we have more efficient mapping and measuring tools so we can plan smarter, report faster and drive improvements across survey workflows and entire projects.”

 

SEE Civil and SITECH bring together UAV technology

Trimble Earthworks study with SEE Civil

Today, SEE Civil’s team of 10 surveyors is using Trimble Status and drones to efficiently map, measure and share survey information about worksites. Logging in through the company’s Trimble account, engineers and project managers can see surfaces visualised in 3D instantly. Teams create volume measurements to compare elevations captured with the drone, comparing those values to the design for accurate project tracking and reporting. Using Trimble Stratus, teams also develop high-quality deliverables for cut and fill mapping, stockpile management and quantification, cross-section analysis, and evaluating slope heights to compare with site measurements.

“Trimble Stratus gives us the ability to provide more accurate positioning information to our teams, more frequently, and much quicker , especially when combined with conventional survey methods,” said Brittain “With this information available at our fingertips, our teams can make faster and more informed decisions to stay ahead of the curve.”

Trimble Stratus is also helping SEE Civil to enhance and accelerate its reporting capabilities and to communicate project progress. End-of-month reporting is now also much simpler using the Trimble Status platform, reducing stress and providing more information for project teams, faster.

“Trimble Stratus software includes a visual timeline that keeps everyone on the same page and empowers the team to track site changes, avoid crossed wires, and resolve disputes when they arise,” said Brittain. 

The Propeller team and SITECH Construction Systems are continuing to train SEE Civil teams to use Trimble Stratus software and to optimise its new UAV survey workflow fully. The company is currently training its extended team of surveyors, superintendents, project managers and its executive management team on the software. SEE Civil’s goal is to have decision makers be empowered to readily access survey data whenever and however they need it, to make smarter, data-driven decisions.

“Trimble and Propeller have been great to deal with so far,” said Brittain. “I relied on their experience and knowledge to help understand the Trimble Stratus capabilities and how we can best leverage the tools. We’re minimising time, cost, and safety risks associated with traditional survey and we’ve totally transformed how do things to drive efficiencies across projects.”

This article first appeared on insideconstruction.com.au