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Reduce Rework on your Designs with Aerial Photogrammetry

Jul 2022

BIM specialists and CAD engineers use high-resolution, up-to-date aerial imagery to make accurate assumptions, save time, and avoid costly redesigns.

Jul 2022


Is my firm as efficient as possible in design process?

Am I missing relevant project data?

Do you have any of these questions for your next design project? If you do, you are not alone. Many BIM specialists and CAD engineers struggle with this question when their firm takes on new project to bid/propose. For too long, engineering firms have relied on outdated geospatial data and unreliable imagery, which can lead to disastrous assumptions during the initial phases of a project design. Surveying sites, tracking site conditions, and measuring progress often takes longer than needed in the digital age, racking up costs in terms of time lost and redesigns. As per Autodesk Construction Cloud Blog, “Up to 70% of total rework experienced in construction and engineering products are a result of design-induced rework.” That is correct, up to 70% of rework costs are not from the actual construction of the project but from fundamental design errors and miscalculations.
Easy, quick access to cloud-hosted aerial imagery and photogrammetry processing provides up--to-date, measurable, and actionable geospatial content that you can comfortably rely upon for designs and preliminary site analysis. The various output formats of photogrammetric mapping — point cloud, orthomosaic, 3D objects, etc. — can be used in many of today’s design applications, such as Infraworks and more.
Think of Google Maps and its 3D view capability, but unlike Google Maps, premium aerial photogrammetry provides current information about an area which can be measured and utilized in varied software programs for workflows around BIM. This unlocks major feature extraction benefits such as high accuracy survey measurements, terrain contours, AI vector layers, and more. Numerous design professionals including architects, engineers, building designers and construction professionals use aerial photogrammetry to keep their design workflows efficient and convey technical aspects of the proposed project in a photorealistic view with stakeholders.

Why Aerial Photogrammetric Data?

To put it simply, aerial photogrammetric data is the use of aerial imagery captured via drones or flights in surveying and mapping to measure distances between objects. To explain that in further detail, photos that are collected from a fixed-wing aircraft and used to create a 3D mesh, point cloud, or orthomosaic top-down image of a geographic location. This enables more feature-rich and accurate photorealistic content that can be easily measured and utilized for designs in comparison to the average 2D format from free imagery providers.

Reducing Design Rework is Crucial for Project Profitability

A major chunk of the rework cost for civil engineering firms is caused by bad data due to unreliable and out-of-date imagery. It is highly critical that in the early stages of planning, the designs shared with stakeholders have a highly accurate and photorealistic view of the project ready to be undertaken. Robust digital models greatly reduce errors, ultimately saving time and money. When mistakes are corrected in the field, they can be exponentially more expensive than if those mistakes were fixed in the design phase. Scope creep in the form of change orders and rework due to these errors in the design phase only compound loss making for a project as time progresses.
There is no doubt that the best way to keep a project profitable is to avoid mistakes in the first place by viewing and fully understanding your project area. Up-to-date imagery and photogrammetry-enabled feature extraction are always better than relying on free imagery providers that may be more suitable for in-car navigation as opposed to tools for engineers.

Use the Past Design for Better Design

Some aerial imagery providers can give historical context and project updates to stakeholders by showcasing timestamped images from multiple flights within a single common workstation. This allows an engineer or a design professional to see trends and changes, or lack thereof when working on large infrastructure projects specifically in areas where there is moving water and dynamic features from the comfort of your desk. This is also helpful for environmental engineering workflows to identify and develop design approaches to stabilize, contain, and control conditions beneath foundations. This will ultimately be useful for the construction/maintenance of a variety of surfaces to meet end-use goals on previously unusable or unstable ground.

Visualize Project Terrain with Elevation Contours

During site surface analysis, the availability of the end number of terrain points alone cannot visually describe enough detail for folks involved. Elevation contours and digital surface model (DSM), enabled through photogrammetry, are useful for both preliminary design objectives and provide vivid background for layouts. It also gives you a better analysis of high-elevation areas, slope grading for preliminary analysis, and layout of the terrain.
This data can further be used as a backdrop for cut/fill analysis around the project site, logistics ideation, drainage studies, catchment area examination, and more.
Readily available DEM/DSM data for engineering, preliminary planning, and concept design workflows eliminates the need for costly bespoke flyovers or time-consuming trips to the field. Additional features from paid aerial imagery providers also include data attributes around existing buildings and structures to enable sun/shadow and massing studies for proposed construction.

Being Proactive Wins New Business

Creating concept designs on the fly when sourcing new contracts and showcasing your preliminary analysis to a client very early on will instill confidence in your capabilities. It also helps in securing local government approval at later stages of the project when needed.
This is key to having your proposal accepted and your designs approved. Some examples of this:
  • Showcase angles that depict the best views of the project and avoid the worst ones
  • Visual impact of the proposed project itself on the real-world environment
  • Interaction of the proposed project with existing terrain features
  • Line-of-sight from varied points of view to the proposed project
Nearmap lets you showcase the above in your designs, perfectly blended into the real environment, and create winning proposals. All of the above is enabled through near real-time availability of survey-grade data and helps engineers and designers be more effective at their work without ever leaving the comfort of their desk.


As GIS-CAD workflows become more advanced, relying on the most high-quality base maps and feature extraction will be the competitive edge going forward. Using aerial imagery and photogrammetry will produce up-to-date, measurable, and actionable designs that you and your customers can comfortably rely upon. Unlike free data from other maps, which typically get updated infrequently with very limited usability as a tool, premium photogrammetry from Nearmap is updated up to 3 times a year and covers more than 80% of the U.S. population.
This imagery data is available in various output formats which means the data – whether it is a point cloud, orthomosaic tiff, or a 3D object – can be used in many of today’s design applications, including AutoCAD, Revit, InfraWorks, Civil 3D, ReCap, MicroStation, ArchiCAD, and more. Nearmap Point cloud output presents BIM designers with highly accurate RGB values for each point and elevation data, thereby a realistic colorized 3D mesh for your design workflows.

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This article first appeared in AugiWorld magazine, July 2022.
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