The construction industry hasn’t always been quick to embrace new technologies, but more recently (accelerated in part by the pandemic) there has been a surge in new construction tech. New automation, robotics, and digital transformation technologies are affording opportunities to disrupt processes that are traditionally very labour-intensive. Chief among these are data capture tools and methodologies that offer construction companies greater visibility into their projects by effectively monitoring progress across their jobsites.
Creating site documentation with 360° image capture or laser scanning can be time-consuming, dull, and error-prone for the workers typically tasked to do it; and they’ll be quick to tell you this themselves. It’s particularly challenging to manually capture site data with the requisite level of frequency and repeatability to enable proactive management through downstream machine-learning and computer vision-based analyses.
As a result, many leading construction firms are looking for autonomous solutions that are actually capable of navigating their dynamic environments to automate jobsite data capture safely and frequently. This is where Boston Dynamics Spot comes in.
Autonomous data capture for dynamic sites
Spot, an agile mobile robot, is uniquely capable of effectively automating data capture in a dynamic environment. Its advanced mobility allows Spot to navigate obstacle-filled, continuously evolving construction sites for autonomous data capture of jobsite progress with more frequent, repeatable scans and less variation from capture to capture. This allows for more effective downstream analysis over the course of a project and helps you reach the kind of insights that drive better construction management.
Some keys to achieving this repeatability and reliability with Spot are:
- Perception: There's always going to be something new on site each time you run the robot: a toolbox in the way, a scissor lift, maybe even a person walking out in front of the robot. Spot perceives those obstacles with its five built-in stereo cameras and LIDAR via the Spot EAP (Enhanced Autonomy Package) to navigate a constantly changing environment.
- Autonomy: In this dynamic environment, the robot also needs to be able to complete scans without operator intervention. With a dock for self-charging and data transfer, Spot can live on site, conducting programmed Autowalk missions and autonomously traversing around common obstacles—catching its balance if it slips, walking through standing water, and navigating all of the unpredictable things that inevitably happen on a jobsite.
- Customisation: Finally, Spot needs to provide a whole product solution, from capturing data, to transferring those files to the cloud, to running analysis on the tools that you're already using. It’s simple to add your preferred sensors or software integrations with our software development kit and robust partner network.
Spot on the job
Site progress monitoring
First and foremost is site progress monitoring. You conduct a daily site walk, taking, for example, 50 spherical photos at the same 50 locations that you want to compare over time. Spot helps automate that process, freeing up your workforce to focus on higher value tasks and increasing the level of image repeatability to add more value through downstream image analysis.
Through integrations with partners like HoloBuilder, you are able to record missions for Spot, specifying where those 360° photos should be taken and mapping their locations on a floor plan. Then, as you run the mission day after day, the robot uploads new 360° images. You can track ongoing progress and compare the same location side-by-side to understand the differences over time.
BIM model comparisons
We also have customers using 3D scans in BIM to compare as-built progress to the model. Equipped with a laser scanner payload such as the Trimble X7, Spot can capture detailed scans. These laser scans are then superimposed onto the model and quickly assessed for any kind of deviations or potential conflicts. This information can also feed directly into BIM and create a reality capture feedback loop by updating asset parameters (has this model element been placed in the correct location and on schedule?) with the help of software partners like Avvir.
Digital twin creation
Similar to BIM model comparisons is digital twin creation. Robotic automation simplifies the scanning process. Instead of scanning a project once or twice over the course of several years for due diligence or a final as-built, you can start to track week-to-week or even day-to-day changes. A robust reality capture program adds the dimension of time. From something like a laser scan point cloud, you’re now able to build up high-resolution historical data to create facilities models and other digital or operational models, reducing the high level of clean-up work that typically needs to be performed prior to owner handoff.
Worker health & safety
And then lastly, of course, is worker health and safety. Spot gives you an opportunity to remove your workers from potentially hazardous situations. Think of enclosed spaces or terrain where it's easy to trip, such as pre-pour decking and rebar grids. Why risk a person to do data capture in that kind of antagonistic terrain when you can simply have the robot do it?
Additionally, integrating with software solutions like DroneDeploy’s 360 walk through allows you to identify potentially hazardous or dangerous situations from reality capture data and resolve issues immediately so that they do not continue to be a danger.
Source: Boston Dynamics