gNext platform screenshot of annotated area of interest on concrete bridge

How gNext and Skydio Optimized the Michael O’Callaghan-Tillman Bridge Inspection

Stantec reduced their bridge inspection time from two weeks to two-and-a-half days and decreased staff and resources needed by incorporating gNext and Skydio drones. Let’s get into it!

Recently, Skydio and Stantec hosted a webinar called “Optimizing Bridge Inspection Work.” Michael Marshall, Stantec Bridge Engineer, and UAS Program Lead, sat down with Joshua Sexton, Stantec’s Reality Catcher Technology Manager, Emma Richmond, an Enterprise Account Executive with Skydio, and Alicia Llorens, a Solutions Engineer with Skydio.

The group discussed how Stantec uses Skydio to create new bridge inspection workflows and how drone technology improves infrastructure inspections. They spoke specifically about how Skydio and the gNext Platform optimized the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Bridge inspection.

Stantec’s Traditional Bridge Inspection Workflow

With a significant number of our nation’s bridges being structurally deficient, there have been even more concerns about using traditional inspection methods. These aging assets are highly susceptible to inclement weather and considerable wear from constant use; they present numerous hazards for personnel and community members.

During the webinar, Marshall notes that for years Stantec relied on techniques such as rope access, snooper trucks, and bucket trucks to perform bridge inspections. These are among some of the most common traditional inspection techniques.

“Climbers would repel down the columns and use what’s called a belay technique with rope access and look at the arch look at the columns, and then they would also repel the columns individually,” Marshall states. Some defects are invisible to the naked eye, which puts human inspectors at even greater risk while using these methods.

two workers inspecting a concrete bridge

Around 2013, Stantec began integrating manual drones to streamline the process. They’d usually pair a bridge engineer with a drone pilot or the company personnel and stand nearby to ensure that the data capture was sufficient for the inspection. But using manual drones has been shown to pose limitations and risks including:

  • The need for a pilot to be on-site
  • The inability to navigate around complex or hard-to-reach structures

So Stantec has begun implementing digital technologies into their infrastructure inspections to improve the process.

Michael O’Callaghan-Tillman Bridge Inspection with gNext

gNext platform screenshot of annotated area of interest on concrete bridge
The gNext Platform: Annotating an Area of Interest

Before using drones, the O’Callaghan-Tillman Bridge project would’ve taken roughly two weeks with around 16 individuals, including eight climbers on site. By incorporating Skydio autonomous drones, Stantec reduced the time to two-and-a-half days and decreased the amount of staff and resources necessary to complete the job.

Regarding processing the data, Stantec is migrating toward digital inspection solutions to improve accessibility for clients. Not all clients have access to 3D modeling or can process the data, so they deliver the report in a digital package with help from the gNext drone inspection platform.

Using the gNext Platform, Stantec was able to generate a comprehensive 3D model of the Michael O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Bridge. gNext is a cloud-based inspection solution Sexton refers to as “a great ingestion pipeline for workflows like this”.

The team was able to process and inspect the data from this project seamlessly. With a wide range of accurate models and tools at users’ convenience, you can view your assets from numerous perspectives and annotate files to bring attention to distinct features.

Sexton continues, “The fact that photogrammetry is getting so good that it can process mass quantities of data in one complete job was a major breakthrough for Stantec.” What’s truly remarkable is that Stantec captured around nine thousand photos to cover this entire data set. However, gNext processed this in about 20 hours.

This technology cut inspection times and crews by up to 75% compared to traditional methods. These new inspection workflows also result in more valuable data, driving operational value for the business.

Better Workflows and Better Results in the Infrastructure Inspection Industry

Autonomous drones like Skydio are here to stay for inspection workflows, according to Alicia. These technologies won’t replace bridge inspections, but they are tools that can optimize inspection workflows.

Marshall notes how Stantec could efficiently capture and review the data in only a day and a half. Integrating these tools into the process provides invaluable insights and allows inspectors to effectively compare data over time without being in harm’s way. Also, the fact that teams can use these technologies to monitor assets in real-time makes them even more of a revolutionary advancement.

Stantec has gravitated toward Skydio’s autonomous drones as they’re compact and significantly easier to navigate. This has enabled their team to capture higher-quality data more efficiently.

Sexton mentions that the learning curve with the Skydio drone is much lower than your average drone’s. Autonomous drone technology is leveling the playing field for personnel and helps leverage teams better by offering a versatile inspection tool.

One feature that makes Skydio stand out is its 3D Scan capability, which reduces the number of staff present on site. Marshall mentions, “With Skydio, we’ve been able to consolidate a lot of that into one hat. It’s been a huge game-changer.”

The Future of Infrastructure Inspections with gNext

highlight of concrete spalling in gNext software
The gNext Platform: Highlighting Concrete Spalling

The infrastructure inspection industry needs resources that will grow along with the ever-evolving inspection field.

The gNext Platform is a digital mapping and analytics software with a groundbreaking underlying AI engine. gNext combines vehicle, drone, and manually collected data with AI and digital modeling so users can inspect their assets in a scalable, safe environment with precision.

How to Leverage gNext For Your Organization

Clients can process and visualize their captured data on the gNext Platform via accurate 3D, mesh, and point-cloud models. gNext’s underlying AI engine aids asset owners in detecting hidden structural defects and can extract visual information about the condition of critical infrastructure. Because of this, asset owners can address any concerns promptly.

Teams can form mission-critical insights remotely thanks to gNext’s finetuned photogrammetry engine and convenient collaboration tools. This enhances personnel’s safety by reducing rappelling efforts and their exposure to potential dangers (i.e., extreme heights and hazardous materials).

With less staff in the field and less reliance on expensive climbing equipment, teams can save money and time. They can then reallocate the saved funds and time to focus on critical projects. It can also reduce traffic disruptions, meaning incorporating gNext in the process would also benefit communities.

gNext has many features that make collaboration easy and more secure. Our platform is protected with end-to-end encryption, so unauthorized parties don’t have access.

Any project can be shared through an invitation. You can choose whether to grant a user permission to edit capable properties or to view the data only.

Sexton demonstrated that users might also annotate directly on the files to alert co-workers, clients, and other stakeholders. The gNext Platform is currently expanding its AI capabilities to detect and quantify defects and objects across a wide range of assets, like bridges, roads, buildings, towers, cooling towers, and dams.

We’re focusing on each asset’s unique challenges and requirements to provide custom solutions that enable safer, more effective inspections.

Learn More About How gNext and Skydio are Revolutionizing the Inspection Industry

gNext offers a full inspection and visualization platform to support partners like Skydio with their data capture and infrastructure inspection needs.

gNext and Skydio have partnered to offer automatic data syncing from Skydio drones into the gNext Platform via the gNext-Skydio Cloud integration. Our goal is to make a safer environment and help communities flourish, so we’re so glad our services benefitted the Stantec team during the Michael O’Callaghan-Tillman Bridge Inspection. For more information and updates on gNext and Skydio, you can visit our LinkedIn pages:

Thanks again to Michael, Josh, Emma, and Alicia for discussing their experience using our technologies and sharing their expert insight on these matters.

Similar Posts