By Paul Gervacio, PE, ENV SP
Giving Civil Engineers an Edge
Emerging technology has always played a part in improving the efficiency and process of civil engineering projects, especially at Psomas. Advances in imaging technology in particular are specifically useful for civil engineers. One such technology that we are beginning to use is 360-degree cameras.
The Limits of Point-and-Shoot Imaging
Typically, in the preliminary stages of a project, a meticulous and accurate record of the site must be made to document existing constraints and conditions. Part of that process has traditionally involved the use of a “point-and-shoot” camera to capture details. While useful since a picture is “worth a thousand words,” the process has several potential flaws. If the photographer misses an important component, or if there is any confusion about spatial details, you might have to go back to the site to gather more data. This added labor can quickly balloon costs.
How a 360-Degree Camera Can Change the Game
A 360-degree camera literally captures a much larger perspective to document everything that you are seeing: vertically, horizontally, in front, and behind. The photographer only has to walk the site once and all of the details are captured and ready to be explored later. The camera records stills, video and audio so staff can narrate anything that is worthy of mentioning while walking the site. This eliminates much of the field time traditionally associated with data collection.
When you’re back in the office you can pan around as if standing in the field. This gives more flexibility—you’re not limited to a view in just one direction. It’s as if you’re re-walking the project site with the ability to turn to an infinite number of view angles. If by chance there’s something you’re still curious about back in the office, you can go right back into the video and explore those details.
An Invaluable Resource For the Whole Team
Another advantage of using a 360-degree camera is that it can be passed around to other team members as well as clients since the image it records is highly versatile and easy to understand. It uses simple software so anyone can virtually walk through the project site. Different specialists from the team can sit with the video and make a more in-depth analysis from the point of view of their respective expertise. For the client and layman, it also serves as an excellent reference when collaborating with the engineering team.
This technology is still in its infancy, and we’re discovering new ways to use it all the time. Psomas has already put the camera system to good work on many of our job sites. One project involved documenting the location of drainage pipes and determining which direction they were headed—without ever needing to remove the storm drain manhole lid. Near the curb drain inlets, our engineers were able to insert the camera into the curb face opening to get a view inside the manhole. The camera auto-adjusts the light exposure, allowing our engineers to see which direction the pipes were headed as well as the approximate pipe sizes.
This camera system is great for all phases of a project, including preliminary/final design work, documenting as-built detail, and providing greater transparency of your work methods.
Everyone In Our Industry Can Benefit
With the 360-degree camera, Psomas is currently developing a Best Practices guide that will grow as we master this element of new technology. This technology empowers our managers and employees to think above-and-beyond design and find new and better ways to serve our clients.
Note: Use Chrome or Firefox for 360 panning ability. Video resolution diminished due to compression.