NZ Contractor Technology Brief 1409

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m Machine control and tracking m GPS positioning and geo-fencing m Unmanned aerial vehicles / drones m Project management software m Handheld technology ... and into the future


From the present to the future Think of the Contracting Technology supplement you have in your hands as crib notes for a dozen or so different technological solutions that might benefit your business. BY CAMERON OFFICER.


ampling the variety of innovations we’ve chosen to highlight here reinforces what an amazing present we live and do business in. Given the myriad applications within the sector for the sorts of solutions we’ve highlighted, it’s clear that the civil construction industry is very much an early-adopter of new technologies. Of course, there is a natural tendency for each successive generation to suggest doing business is much harder and more complex than it was for the generation that came before. While we humans can’t help but offer such assessments from a subjective viewpoint, from a technological standing there’s no doubt that there are more solutions open to the contemporary contractor now than there ever has been. Roll the clock back only 20 years and almost none of the technology in this supplement was available to the average contractor; certainly not in the compact, cost effective or intuitive packaging it is now. In some ways 1994 doesn’t feel very long ago at all, but marvelling at these innovations – many we already take for granted, like cellular communication or GPS technology – and all of a sudden 1994 really does seem like a long-distant era. From the accuracy with which your excavator operator carves out that swale drain; to the precision with which you can track fuel burn across your fleet, or the speed with which you can receive detailed, up-to-the-minute information on a remote ridgeline, there will be an innovation within the following pages that will allow you and your team to work faster, smarter, safer, be more connected, or give you an entirely different view of your operation. We’ve refined the dauntingly large topic of technology in the civil construction industry down into five general sections. 2 SEPTEMBER 2014

Machine control and tracking First up we’ll look at machine control systems that provide accuracy of both operation and information. Thanks to advances in global positioning system technology, excavator and dozer operators have the ability to cut multiple elevations, slopes and complex designs with absolute accuracy. With highly advanced systems now available for excavators, graders, dozers and scrapers ensuring faster earthwork, there is greater potential for a better bottom line and the ability to tender for work more accurately. The idea of machine control can also be extended to the wireless monitoring of efficiencies. The ability to track fuel usage, distances covered, load weights, factory specified service intervals and even engine idle time ensures fleet managers and operators have the ability to analyse the health of their fleet and identify where losses are occurring and what can be done to improve on them. Quite simply, we’ve never had the ability to gain so much knowledge about our machines.

GPS positioning and geo-fencing Of particular interest and use to owners of plant in remote locations, advances in GPS tracking mean the ever-present risk of machinery theft and damage can be lessened. Systems which send alerts via text message if machinery is moved or tampered with offer effective first lines of defence. This same global positioning software can be cleverly manipulated to draw a ring – or geo-fence – around any machine. If the machine is moved beyond the virtual border of the prescribed area, similar alerts are issued.

It’s not just the securing of expensive and highly technical machinery that can benefit from this technology though; smaller, more portable assets like waste bins, remote fuel tanks and trailers can also be tagged, helping managers keep an eye on every item out in the field.

Unmanned aerial vehicles/drones Very much a hot topic at present across a broad sweep of sectors, we are only just starting to realise the potential applications and benefits of accurate, stable and cost-effective drone technology. Drones – or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – have changed the face of aerial mapping and surveying forever. Whereas previously a light aircraft and pilot were required for these tasks, making the process cost effective for only the biggest projects, now a UAV can achieve accurate results in much less time, with much less cost incurred. What’s more the data gathered can be turned around and assessed quickly and the UAVs themselves can be launched, flown and landed from neighbouring sites, eliminating risk to personnel and ensuring mobile plant can keep operating at the same time as the survey is completed. The opportunities UAV technology represents for a wide variety of entities from the construction, forestry, mining and government sectors are only now starting to be fully explored.

Project management software Having eyes and ears everywhere on a multi-layered job site has become much easier in recent years as project management software solutions increase the ability to control and analyse every component of a project. And of course, easier access to the right data makes for smarter decision making. New developments in software mean that job forms can be kept up-to-date and centralised in the ‘cloud’ for access by as many (or as few) personnel as is deemed necessary. Technical drawings and survey plans can be sent electronically from the site office to individual operators in machine cabs, ensuring development milestones are hit faster, costs are kept down without the need for surveyors to be on-site and safety improves with less need for interaction between personnel and mobile plant.

Handheld technology Of course while technology can be harnessed to ensure we get the most out of plant and assets, as managers and colleagues we also need to stay connected and have the ability to work remotely. And the construction sector’s idea of ‘remote’ is often exactly that. In many instances your ordinary domestic-use tablet or laptop might not stand up to the harsh, abrasive environment of the job site. But a number of communications and computing hardware firms have seen fit in recent times to develop purpose-protected, heavy duty portable computing and communications solutions. Tablet computers that offer improved resistance to dust ingress or shock from being dropped, that offer improved battery life for full 12 hour day operation, yet also boast touch screens that are bright enough to be seen and navigated in the glare of our harsh summer sun have become a work tool as powerful and relied upon as any heavy machine.

... And into the future So with the technological advances already open to us, what of the future? In the forestry industry prototype ‘robots’ that identify and climb specific trees in order to prune limbs are already being trialled. What applications could such devices have within our sector? Could these same machines be used in some way in high rise construction? Will the demolition industry utilise remotely-operated robot technology to safely bring down structures? Will urban roadbuilding plant become wholly computerised, with whisper-quiet electric rollers and graders operated from centralised control rooms in the wee small hours so as not to inhibit peak traffic flow? Will small armies of roving autonomous dust suppressant drones patrol job sites almost completely devoid of actual human labourers? Will UAVs lift and deliver pre-cast concrete panels to site, freeing up arterial roads for survey managers heading to the sign-off meeting on a completed build they haven’t needed to physically visit since initial project inception? One thing’s for sure; the contracting landscape of 2034 will be almost totally unrecognisable to us. Exciting thought, isn’t it? SEPTEMBER 2014 3


Breaking new surveying ground DOWNER NEW ZEALAND and Global Survey have been able to deliver a safer, more cost-effective survey method to help resolve the devastation June’s storm wreaked on Great Barrier Island. The storm devastated the north of Great Barrier Island. Footbridges were washed away and multiple slips blocked several main roads leaving communities entirely cut off. Rowan Tailby of Downer’s Canterbury Construction Division saw the devastation first-hand in his role undertaking the preliminary surveys for remedial works. “It was the worst rain in living memory, with upwards of 30 to 40 slips including a 10-metre wide gap in one road. And of course, it’s territory which has its own challenges,” he reveals. One of the biggest challenges facing modern contractors is changing the

culture around health and safety in the industry, and ever-tightening requirements. “As always, our goal is ‘zero harm’. It’s much safer to be able to set up at the bottom of a slip and scan up than attempting to scale it, so the Nova [Leica MS50] was put to good use. The fact that the Nova can scan 1000 points a second and is accurate to a couple of millimetres means we could gather far more data, far more accurately than using traditional methods… and do it much more safely. “Great Barrier Island’s remoteness meant we had to get the most accurate representation of the topography and damage the first time. Plus, accurately calculating the volumes required for the design really mattered because there’s only one quarry on the island with really tight consents and the cost of importing fill is significant.”

The Leica MS50 (Nova)’s versatility is what sets it apart, according to Tailby. “Typically if we’re surveying a road for design purposes, say at 10-metre cross sections over one kilometre, that’s a lot of crossing the road. The Nova allows us to scan without the inherent dangers of continually crossing a live lane, while also gathering greater definition of the road surface. “Where the Nova comes into its own is for health and safety, and for measuring volumes,” Tailby sums up. “With Global Survey we’re able to utilise the latest in positioning technology; a place like Great Barrier means additional costs for all transportation of material and labour. Getting the most accurate results, in the safest way, lets us deliver much more accurate pricing – and that means much better value for the client.”

Two styles of handheld Trimble devices – the older, button-pressing TSC3 on the far left still favoured by many users for its robustness while (slightly obscured on the right of the photo), the latest, dual-purpose device with full cellphone capabilities. Both feature exceptional data recording detail and accuracy.

Trimble’s new piling system THIS YEAR TRIMBLE launched its DPS900 Piling System – a land-based 3D machine control system for a variety of piling machine makes and models. The accuracy of the system allows piling contractors to increase operational efficiency and reduce costs for the likes of building structural foundations and retaining walls. “The DPS900 Piling System can transform the way piling contractors work,” says Alan Sharp, business area director for Trimble Heavy Civil Construction. The system reduces surveying costs associated with staking, has built-in checks and can increase on-site safety by reducing the number of people around machines, pilings and foundations. “Accurate positioning in DPS900 can ensure navigation time between piles is reduced, resulting in increased piling time to maximise production and revenue per day.” Piling machines can be connected to the office using Trimble Connected Site solutions for wireless data transfer and GNSS corrections. In addition, machines can be tracked and monitored using VisionLink for location, hours and utilisation information.


Easy data monitoring LEICA GEOSYSTEMS has recently launched its GeoMoS Now! – a new web-based application that is part of the Leica Geosystems monitoring solution and enables on-the-go visualisation and analysis of structural and ground movement monitoring data. This solution allows large amounts of geodetic and geotechnical data to be easier to handle with simplified workflows. Users can view and analyse monitoring data anytime and anywhere from any smart device, such as a computer, tablet or mobile phone. It is part of a monitoring solution that comes with a web-based user interface and allows graphic visualisations to be easily edited by users who have no knowledge of web programming.


Topcon GNSS for compactors SPECIFICALLY ENGINEERED FOR compactors, the new Topcon C-63 indicate system is designed to precisely track compaction with minimal equipment operation. Featuring innovative Topcon GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Systems) technology and an intuitive full-colour display, the C-63 indicate system provides crucial compaction data to the machine operator in real time, helping to ensure accurate and predictable results. “While compaction is often regarded as a low key aspect of the asphalt paving process, it’s integral to the success of the overall project to get it absolutely perfect,” says Mike Milne, managing director of New Zealand Topcon importer and consultancy firm, Synergy Positioning Systems. “Over- or under-compaction can lead to premature stress and failure on roadways and other paved surfaces, so ensuring thorough compaction during the construction process is vital. The C-63 system monitors compaction across every pass the machine makes, giving operators assuredness of accuracy through every phase of the process.” Combining common engineering data to help maintain conformance throughout the entire process, the C-63 system ensures maximum efficiency and control are achieved, with the system’s simple colour-coded display screen helping operators keep track of cumulative compaction through pass counts and status reporting.

What’s more, the C-63 system also integrates seamlessly with Topcon’s Sitelink3D site management system. On larger scale asphalt paving jobs it’s not uncommon for a number of compactors to be working within the one site. Connecting with the Topcon Sitelink3D site management system, the C-63 unit allows operators of all compactors in the same area to see the work already performed by other machines, thereby preventing multiple machines travelling over surfaces already compacted to their required amounts, saving both time and money. “These innovations from Topcon essentially mean overcompaction is a thing of the past,” says Milne. “Work on projects can be completed sooner and contractors will achieve optimal pass counts every time, ensuring that our clients’ reputations for quality work continue to grow with the help of Topcon’s globally recognised technology.”

Pinpoint accuracy SANDPIT INNOVATION has partnered with global defence service provider Lockheed Martin to develop an advanced reconciliation service. The subscription service leverages space-based satellite imagery and advanced analytics to accurately perform material reconciliations throughout complex mining operations, and it is contiguous, competitive, accurate and reliable against other reconciliation methods. Leveraging Lockheed Martin’s 20 years of experience in complex data processing and geospatial imagery, mineRECON has the tools and techniques currently used in defence applications to automatically process various types of satellite imagery and produce rapid reconciliation reports. This is providing a new level of speed

and cost-effectiveness for organisations. While the application of satellite imagery is new to mining, the technology is well-proven, low risk and continues to rapidly evolve. Currently, nine commercial satellites send back high-resolution imagery to the earth. By the end of 2015, the number of highresolution imagery satellites is projected to exceed 40 and by 2017, that number is projected to exceed 75. Satellite imagery is collected in under 10 minutes; this occurs without any interaction on site. Unlike other methods it is nonintrusive and eliminates all HSE risks. Advanced processing techniques then allow accurate and repeatable elevation data to be extracted along with change detection and image filtration to produce superior volume calculations.



Disruptive technology


THE HISTORY OF INNOVATION is one of disruption, and many of the devices and technologies we now take for granted and use every day were once considered disruptive. While these innovations often met with initial resistance, such technologies should be seen as transformative rather than destructive, often increasing productivity, resulting in countless benefits and paving the way for further innovation. Disruptive innovation is all around us. In the recent past, wireless technology has fundamentally changed the nature of communications. In the last century, more and more of the dangerous jobs once requiring risk to personnel in various industries are now completed by machine. In the information age, as industry becomes more data-intensive, digital disruption is driving the next wave of technological evolution, and the utility sector is no exception.

Disruption in the utility locating sector One of many fields to have undergone various phases of innovation is that of utility locating technologies. Understanding underground assets remains vital for utilities and construction contractors. In many ways it is becoming increasingly important as more and more assets are located underground. Recently we have seen a move away from relying solely on manual records and from more destructive methods of determining asset locations, such as exploratory digging or potholing. Non-invasive surveying technologies like ground penetrating radar (GPR), sounding technology, radio detection and electromagnetic induction have experienced widespread adoption. Services like Dial Before You Dig (DBYD), which collate 6 SEPTEMBER 2014

Augview, a mobile GIS that allows users to view and edit their asset data from the field, and an augmented reality application that allows users to visualise underground objects.

information submitted by contractors and offer it freely, also play a pivotal role. The next phase in utility location looks likely to involve augmented reality overlays on mobile devices (such as tablets and smartphones), which use GIS data to visualise underground assets. One such solution is Augview, which displays geographic asset data as maps, text or as a 3D visualisation transposed over a device’s live video feed. The data can be updated in the field and information about new assets uploaded in real time. Like many of the most promising digital innovations in utility asset management, Augview may help reduce operational overheads and can be used on familiar mobile devices that many utility workers already carry with them every day. Mobile solutions are becoming more and more valuable for asset management in the utility sector. Processes that once required extensive paperwork or multiple devices are now being completed more efficiently on one device and application such as Augview can replace or complement a range of the currently accepted technologies in utility location. It combines the mobile devices we are all familiar with, such as tablets and smartphones, with survey grade GPS sensors to replace paper plans and multiple pdfs with one interactive and intuitive solution. The application can also be used to perform spatial updates on incorrectly positioned assets while they are exposed; and to update any missing critical attribute data for a particular asset. Users can associate geotagged photos with any such updates, allowing the asset owner to check any updates before they are committed. The ability to communicate potential faults, safety notifications and accurate

asset locations in such a timely manner represents a massive change in traditional processes – but it also offers great benefits over the existing methods, which can result in a human error and take considerable time, leaving inaccurately recorded assets open to accidental excavation. And as is vital with mobile solutions that deal with important or sensitive data, Augview features enhanced security options. Unlike paper plans or other documents, if the device is lost or stolen its access to data can be disabled remotely.

An industry opportunity The benefits to utilities that adopt new technologies are manifold. Larger socioeconomic changes in recent times have resulted in higher turnover of staff. Knowledge-rich employees who have stayed with a company for decades are now reaching retirement age and the newer workers only stay in the same position for an average of four to five years. Forecasts predict that this trend will become even more pronounced into the future, with the next generation of workers switching positions every few years. In a situation of such high turnover, staff do not have years to learn the intricacies of every task from more experienced staff and then use that knowledge in the same role for years before passing it on in turn. Therefore, user friendly utility location technologies with intuitive interfaces may be increasingly vital in making sure workers are equipped with the information they need. This is especially relevant for utility location given the drastic consequences of inadequate knowledge regarding the location of buried services. • Article supplied by Augview.



Imagine having a 3D site picture of everything being done, or not done, with any asset on your site. That’s what the Trimble® Connected Site® does. It’s a solution that collects, stores, and integrates data from your Trimble Machine Control and Site Positioning Systems. With real-time updates to and from site crews, multiple machines, the site trailer, and the head office, everyone can see more, solve more, and work more efficiently than ever before. Never lose sight of your site. Connect with us to learn more. Phone: 0800 GEOSYS (0800 436 797) Email: © 2013 Trimble Navigation Limited. All rights reserved. TC-179 (01/13)


Keeping tabs on your gear online THE SOFTWARE TEAM AT ABLETECH IN WELLINGTON ARE RENOWNED FOR THEIR KIWI INNOVATION WHEN IT COMES TO EASY ONLINE SOLUTIONS FOR CONTRACTORS. ABLETECH’S TRACK RECORD includes AddressFinder for address auto completion and business solutions for NZ Post, FlyBuys and NZX and they say they like to build software that solves real needs, regardless of the industry, so helping out with locating generators and plate compactors is all in a day’s work. One of the latest new solutions from Abletech is called WatchMyGear – an industry-generic, mobile phone app using GPS that can be tailored to a number of applications that streamline work processes and keep tabs on your equipment. A versatile app solution, it will also sort work site maps, filter data and reports, monitor and record deliveries and pickups, and assist with compliance such as health and safety regulations. “Because the software is easily tailored to individual businesses we like to discuss exactly what our clients’ specific needs are,” says managing director Carl Penwarden. Software developer Nigel Ramsay got the initial inspiration for the WatchMyGear solution from watching hire companies struggling to know exactly where their portaloos were. “The solution was actually quite simple and affordable, and it saves on phone calls, paper trails and frustration,” he says. “Not to mention guess work.” While on the surface WatchMyGear looks like a phone scanner, behind the scenes an online engine gives businesses real-time reporting on the location of their gear and even staff, he says. Each user has a personal login and their own cloud-based account and platform through the WatchMyGear website to view what’s 8 SEPTEMBER 2014

happening in real-time from their office or home. “From annual reports or stocktakes to locating that generator and checking if your gear’s in storage.” It’s also nice and friendly to use he adds. “Video tutorials and friendly pop-ups guide even the most non-technical user through their account.” • More information:


Wearable technology around the corner WE ARE ON THE BRINK of a wearable tech tipping point and the enterprise must embrace it, says David Andersson, director of IFS Labs. There’s no question that wearable devices will be the next widely adopted form of consumer technology and the subject was the talk of CES 2014, the global consumer electronics and consumer technology tradeshow in Las Vegas in January this year. It is predicted that the market will be worth US$10 billion by 2016. Despite some fears that George Orwell’s predictions might finally be coming true (albeit 30 years late), there are a multitude of practical applications for wearable devices for consumers – from fitness trackers you wear on your wrist to automatic cameras that you clip to your breast pocket. Now there’s plenty of discussion as to how the workplace might benefit from this new technology. But with consumer demand rapidly increasing and the number of wearable devices sold globally predicted to top 19 million this year, it appears we are

approaching a tipping point. Once widespread consumer adoption takes place, the enterprise is never far behind, whether it’s ready or not. Remember how quickly workforces around the world tossed aside those cumbersome Blackberry devices in favour of more consumer-friendly smartphones? The BYOD (bring your own device) trend that hit businesses in recent years was evidence enough that members of staff will take technology into their own hands if their employer isn’t providing what they want. While not always immediately obvious, there’s also a whole host of applications for wearable tech in the workplace. I can imagine manufacturing and construction workers consulting information in the field on a smart watch, or even a mechanic seeing vehicle diagnostics through augmented reality glasses. And wearable tech isn’t just for manual workers – smartphones are getting bigger and bigger, to the point where it’s not really appropriate to be taking it out to check emails and appointments in a meeting.

Samsung Smart Watch

Instead, imagine being able to discreetly look to your wrist for all the information you need. The most successful devices will be those that are simply new interfaces harnessing the power of the smartphones and tablets that most of us already carry in our pockets. Smart watches, AR glasses and even smart contact lenses will save time and increase productivity, results that will be reflected in the bottom line of enterprises that choose to embrace this new technology.



Dead keen weighing TRANSPORT SPECIFICATIONS (TSL) IS SERVICING THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY WITH ITS WEIGHCHECK PROGRAMME AND PORTABLE WEIGHING SCALES PRODUCT. THE COMPANY HAS BEEN involved with roading heavy vehicles and machinery in this country for a long time and says it has observed that there is no agreed process for accurately weighing vehicles that meets international standards. “Most weighing platforms are either of a complete weigh bridge platform designed to weigh bulk products for commerce, or strip weigh bridges used by the Police to weigh individual axles and (lately) Weigh-in Motion systems employed by NZTA to monitor heavy transport movements. “As a result there have been discussions as to the accuracy of weighing facilities to accurately determine the true weight of a vehicle.” The Vehicle Dimension and Mass Rule 2002 legislation requires individual axle weights, axle group weights, and overall vehicle weights to comply with certain weight limits. If weighed road-side by the Police, each weight band is recorded and if found in excess of the legal regulations infringement notices are issued. In some cases the fines can be over $40,000. In addition, if it is proven a vehicle has damaged the infrastructure, such as a culvert or bridge, an operator may be held responsible for the cost of repair. TSL says bulk weigh bridges are not designed for determining individual axle weights or load share as the approaches are not necessarily level and the bridge may not be capable of supporting an over dimensional vehicle, or access to and from the weigh bridge facility may restrict larger vehicles. Overweight vehicles such as mobile cranes may exceed weigh bridge capacity. “Strip weigh platforms capable of weighing a single axle are suitable for weighing individual axles however are unable to weigh

the complete vehicle in a single weigh,” says the company. “International weighing standards require [that] to accurately weigh an item, the entire vehicle needs to be weighed in unison, and display a single total gross weight.” Individual pad scales are another method for determining individual weights of vehicles, however, again are only capable of weighing a single axle at a time. TSL has used this method for many years with its own scales, however it notes that due to modern suspensions, such as hydropneumatic or electronic air suspension, the axle weights are continually adjusting to roading conditions. As a result you cannot guarantee there is a fluctuation in weight from axle to axle. “As a result we have researched internationally to see what products are available to suit New Zealand conditions, capable of weighing individual wheels, axle weights, and axle group weights and gross weights all in a single weigh. “We have now purchased and are operating a system capable of weighing a total of six axles at once up to a maximum capacity of 130,000 kilograms. The system is fully mobile and available throughout the country.” The system is of European design and meets OMIL regulations and is capable of weighing a heavy transporter with rows of eight. The system can be used to weigh mobile cranes, truck and trailers, mobile machines, mobile plant; and for auditing on board scales and payloads. “The other benefit is to weigh your asset on site at your premises, allowing you to make the necessary adjustment prior to driving on the road.”

iPhone app for Komtrax KOMATSU’S KOMTRAX REMOTE machine monitoring system is available as an app for Apple iPhones. Available free through the Komatsu website, the new app gives instant access to vital information on every Komtraxequipped Komatsu machine in a user’s fleet. Features of the app include identification of each machine’s


location – including driving directions based on the phone’s location; hours of use; idle time (dependent on machine type/ model); fuel consumption; cautions; significant movements; and a ‘no usage’ feature. All these features can be customised so users can view set time periods, from one day up to a month.


A solution to paper log books LOGMATE IS AN ELECTRONIC drivers’ logbook system for commercial drivers that does away with the more cumbersome paper log books and comes as a simple application for iPhone and Android. It is suitable for any class two, three, four and five licence holders or those with passenger endorsements. Greg McDowell, Logmate founder and managing director, says; “The application simplifies work time entries by saving driver details, leveraging smartphone GPS and date-time capabilities to enable drivers to log a day’s activity at the press of a button. “The baked in intelligence of the Land Transport Act 1998, means the app also reminds and informs drivers as obligations arise.” Nobody likes paperwork but for commercial and passenger endorsed drivers the need to comply with the law means they need to track their every movement, says McDowell. Logmate is one of the first mobile applications approved by the NZTA to replace paper log books. This process required the application to undergo a six week trial period in conjunction with the Transport Agency and the Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit. Carl Hesseltine, a contracted driver who participated in the trial says; “Paper log books are the worst part of a lot of a commercial driver’s job, it is a time consuming process, having an application that is smart enough to do it for you is brilliant. Especially when you are stopped by enforcement officers, being able to instantly pass on all your activity makes the whole process so much easier and quicker.”

Greg McDowell, Logmate founder and managing director

Online tool enhances Canterbury rebuild THE FORWARD WORKS VIEWER tool was developed to support and accelerate the rebuild of Canterbury and, according to its users, has exceeded all expectations by generating more than $4 million in cost-savings – a figure that is set to grow to more than $20 million in coming years. The Viewer gives recovery agencies, public and private sector users a shared online view of horizontal infrastructure repair, planned buildings, and other construction. “The Viewer is a great example of how location information can benefit the people of Canterbury in real terms,” says Land Information NZ (LINZ) chief executive Peter Mersi. “Since its launch in 2013, it has proven to be invaluable – enabling better coordination and planning of work, and helping rebuild agencies avoid costs caused by unforeseen variations and programme delays.” The Viewer was developed in partnership between the agencies coordinating the Canterbury rebuild: LINZ, the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team, Christchurch City Council, Christchurch Transport Operations Centre, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, and the Christchurch Central Development Unit – a part of CERA. “The Forward Works Viewer is a very important tool in the delivery of the various projects in central Christchurch,” says CCDU director Warwick Isaacs. “By ensuring the work on the ground by the public and private sectors is coordinated, we are able to avoid delays that could end up costing the taxpayer or developers, and that’s good for the whole recovery.” SEPTEMBER 2014 11


GPS machine control MACHINE CONTROL TECHNOLOGY ISN’T ONLY PROVING ITSELF WITH A REPUTATION FOR PROVIDING OPERATORS WITH FAULTLESS ACCURACY, BUT IN TERMS OF ITS ABILITY TO PROVIDE INCREASED COST-EFFECTIVENESS AND PRODUCTIVITY ALSO. MACHINE CONTROL CONSISTS of a GPS receiver mounted to mobile plant, along with sensors and an in-cab display screen. The technology allows dozer, grader, excavator and scraper operators to cut accurate and complex designs without the need for survey pegs and string lines, instead utilising GPS derived information which appears in front of the operator on the in-cab screen in real-time. The technology utilises satellite positioning and digital 3D modelling data to ensure dozer, grader and excavator operators can see where they are, at any given moment on any site. The system works to precise tolerances, allowing machines to work faster and operators with confidence. The result can be massive gains in productivity, with the ability to complete site earthworks phases much faster than by conventional methods. What’s more, with plant operators accessing elevation data from within the cab, there’s less need for the continual presence of surveyor staff on-site. This eliminates potential hazards, with less need for personnel to be operating within the same environment as mobile plant. In fact manufacturers of machine control systems say that re-work due to inaccurate excavation is all but eliminated, given that the correct elevation – derived from the official site survey data – is constantly available in front of the operator. Machine control systems like those manufactured by globally recognised GPS construction instrument manufacturer Topcon Positioning feature a head unit in the cab, along with sensors which predict movement on the boom or blade, depending on the application. 12 SEPTEMBER 2014

The ability for owners of large fleets to set up multiple machines with this cutting edge technology and then move the controller unit between those machines gives multi-disciplinary companies endless flexibility. Mike Milne, managing director of Topcon machine control distributor and consultancy firm, Synergy Positioning Systems, says that Topcon’s industry leading technology effectively ensures every operator has all the information they need right at their fingertips, and without the need for stakes. “Naturally there is the accuracy element to this technology – which is exceedingly good – but speeding up work processes on the job site also leads to calculable savings in both project costs and task time. “These savings really can provide a genuine competitive edge and it’s here where Topcon customers really see the operational benefits of the technology. It provides the potential for better utilisation of plant and lower associated running costs, lower labour costs and time savings across the project. In the competitive environment our clients are working in, these factors can’t be

underestimated,” says Milne. While here in New Zealand machine control systems use is growing fast, in many overseas environments it is becoming a “must have” component of a civil construction entity’s service offering. In fact in North America, where machine control is commonplace, the technology is often seen as a prerequisite to tendering for certain projects, simply because construction companies know how massive the gains can be in terms of work speed and cost efficiencies. While that situation might seem some way off in this country, the growing popularity of machine control technology, like that provided by Topcon, among construction companies of all sizes here suggests that, in years to come, there could be a distinct line develop between those entities that invest in the technology and those that don’t, when it comes to providing clients with a clear, calculable competitive edge. • For more information on Topcon machine control, contact Synergy Positioning Systems directly on 0800 867 266 or visit

Technology solutions to maximise productivity A G R I C U LT U R E









UAV surveying, modelling, and aerial photography

Commerical pilot operating the system, with wider aviation industry experience

BENEFITS OF UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle]

Safety 1

No personnel near operational plant


No personnel exposed to rock fall / slip hazards


No equipment set up in operational area

UX5 final approach

Quality 1

Snap shot of stock at time of flight


Incredible detail of ‘messy stock-piles’



Productivity P

03 351 1115




Site remain 100% fully operational


Planning tool for development, as entire site is mapped


High quality photos for planning, and record keeping


Unmanned aerial vehicles MEET THE TECHNOLOGY THAT IS RAPIDLY CHANGING THE FACE OF THE CONSTRUCTION SECTOR (AND MANY OTHER INDUSTRIES BESIDES). THE UTILISATION OF Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or drone technology within topographical surveying has increased exponentially in recent times, with the wider potential for applications for this technology only now being explored. Developmental advances in lightweight, tough composite materials, as well as GPS and photographic technologies mean that survey mapping utilising robust military grade UAVs has quickly proven itself an efficient, fast and cost-effective data gathering method. The UAV mapping process uses overlapping photographic images to form spatially and vertically accurate, geo-referenced data and imagery. This technical process – known as photogrammetry – gives clients incredibly detailed levels of data. In fact, specialised UAVs are capable of capturing spot height data every five centimetres while flying at around 400 feet above the ground, working quickly to cover areas up to 200 hectares and surveying at a rate of one hectare every 30 seconds. This means that in favourable conditions, UAVs flown by specialist pilots can effectively capture in a matter of hours the sort of field data that can often take ground survey teams days or weeks to accumulate. Launched, flown and landed from a nearby position, UAVs allow work to continue on any job site, eliminating potential hazards and the need to stop work while data is captured from above. Unlike the potential for weather delay associated with using light aircraft, specialised UAVs can fly below low cloud ceilings, using advanced onboard technology to adjust for headwind. Pre-programmed flight path data can even be updated while the UAV is in the air if the nature or requirements of the flight mission change. The NZ Transport Agency’s 16 kilometre long Cambridge section of the Waikato Expressway which was awarded to HEB Construction is the latest of a number of projects undertaken by the Transport Agency that have used this technology. HEB Construction’s contractors representative Gary Budden recently oversaw the implementation of aerial surveys using UAV technology and says the data gathering process has sped up significantly as a result. 14 SEPTEMBER 2014

“Originally we had ground survey teams collecting large numbers of spot height data to generate a terrain model. Naturally with a ground survey team working in the field there is the potential for a heightened element of risk, meaning mobile plant would need to be inactive over a period of time. “The introduction of aerial surveying really sped things up, giving us quicker accumulation time and turnaround on captured data, as well as taking staff out of the work zone; the unobtrusiveness of utilising UAVs to the wider project can’t be overstated.” While many robust UAV platforms are aimed at the consumer market, increasingly civil construction firms requiring accurate terrain or stockpile data are looking to consultancies that use highly specialised UAVs to gather survey information. For the Tamahere to Cambridge section of the Waikato Expressway, HEB Construction utilised the services of Synergy Positioning Systems’ UAV consultancy service. This Auckland headquartered firm flies regular survey flights for HEB Construction across the work corridor in order to provide orthophotography and 1m grid TIN Digital Surface Model (DSM) data, which is then imported into CAD. “The speed with which we can review captured data is crucial. Because we can see the whole picture very quickly, the survey gives us a valuable snapshot of the project at a specific time,” says HEB Construction senior surveyor Nigel Neame. “There’s no discrepancy with the data and we can see volume change information over different parts of the project, which helps us with our billing processes among other things.” Whereas a plane and pilot were once the sole option for gathering aerial survey data, the advances recently seen in UAVs now mean the technology has become much more of a cost-effective option for other entities. As a result, the applications for UAV aerial surveying are vast, with sectors such as forestry, mining, road and rail agencies, local councils and utilities providers all potentially able to capitalise on the benefits. One thing’s for sure; when it comes to UAV technology, we’re still only looking at the tip of the iceberg. • Article supplied by Synergy Positioning Systems. For more information on UAV product and services, contact Synergy Positioning Systems 0800 867 266 or visit



UAVS ARE EQUIPPED WITH various payloads, deployed in a system that ranges between $120,000 to $250,000 for an accurate reliable system. Cheaper systems, (built in someone’s garage) such as low-end fixed wings and quad copters using open source flight control systems, do not have the safety, endurance and reliability to operate in the construction industry. However, for the construction industry a standard camera is most commonly used to create large scale high definition ortho photos. One of the more useful outputs from images obtained by a UAV is a terrain model used for volume reporting. This is achieved through specialist software on custom built PCs. The efficiency of surveying large areas of difficult terrain, compared to conventional surveying is dramatic. Pixel’s clients are seeing a 20 percent reduction in costs, while at the same time, gathering additional useful information. This is all completed without surveyors, setting foot on site. No material is missed,

A Pixel UAV on display at the IoQ/AQA conference in Whangarei this year.

as the UAV can still access unsafe areas with no line of sight. A medium size quarry, for instance, would likely have in the order of 140 million points making up the surface model, or about a surveyed point every 50mm – an accuracy comparable to GPS. The data acquisition is a snap shot, and not spread over the time that is normally taken to complete a traditional survey. With in-house processing Pixel can deliver useful data collected off very large sites the next day and information covering up to 900 hectares within two days.

maintenance schedules and operation experience while the UAVs need multiple levels of fail safes and redundancies built into their systems. Because Civil Solutionz NZ’s operation exceeds these requirements and we employ a commercial pilot, Pixel operates in otherwise restricted airspace. Part 102 of the regulations is due to be released next year. There are no official indications on what this new rule will contain, but as a founding member of UAVNZ, and through our advisory involvement with the CAA, we do know they are going to require a lot more than many current operators/UAVs are capable of. We see this as positive for the industry as it will help those with little, or no, knowledge of UAV requirements to be assured that they have employed a professional operator. There is always the weather but, because of our operational limits, we are not too weather dependent, and can rely on the resources of our parent company Civil Solutionz NZ to call upon, should tight deadlines need to be met.


Public liability insurance

There is not a lot of official guidance from the Civil Aviation Authority regarding UAVs, which currently operate under the model aircraft rules (CAA Part 101). There is a little known part to this rule that states; “A person shall not operate in a manner that creates a hazard to aircraft or to persons or property.” The CAA’s interpretation of this rule excludes almost all operators/UAVs from operating over public or habitated areas. Operators need approved operation manuals, system checks,

This is a new area for insurance companies and it is the existing aviation insurers that have the most understanding of the UAV sector that are offering insurance. However, they are becoming increasingly cautious of the ease at which new operators can get access to UAV and start operating and are requesting more and more certifications and documentation.

The efficiency of surveying large areas of difficult terrain, compared to conventional surveying is dramatic.

• Copy supplied by Civil Solutionz NZ. More information: SEPTEMBER 2014 15

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