Customer Story

How Southbase Construction Facilitates Remote Work with DroneDeploy

November 23, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic thrust New Zealand into a nationwide lockdown this past August, with periodic entry and exit restrictions lifting and implementing as new cases emerged. With this precedent, remote work enablement became more critical than ever, as organizations scrambled to adjust to working exclusively from home. To make this transition as easy as possible for their contractors, Southbase Construction Limited, headquartered in Christchurch, turned to drone solutions. Because the organization worked quickly to establish a drone program and virtual training, project teams were actually able to complete builds faster and more efficiently than ever before. To learn how the company successfully pivoted to 89% remote work, just keep reading.

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Martin Prestage picture

Martin Prestage, IT Manager, Southbase Construction Limited

Pivoting to Remote Site Management

Martin Prestage, IT Manager at Southbase, is no stranger to problem-solving. As the person responsible for technological innovation, his job ensures that Southbase maintains its competitive edge with the latest hardware and software in the industry, and more importantly, the technology’s adoption amongst project teams. Whether researching forward-thinking products or hosting enablement workshops, Martin seeks to empower efficient builds. When it became clear that the coronavirus would force the construction industry to halt production, Martin set to work on using his arsenal of surveying tools for remote site management.

Southbase Construction joined DroneDeploy in early 2020 to increase its BIM capabilities and cut client costs via a centralized communication platform. With all progress photos, drawings, and tasks in one location, project teams could share real-time aerial images of site construction with multiple stakeholders and incorporate the software into each phase of the project lifecycle. For example, during site development, Southbase’s contractors leveraged DroneDeploy’s platform to track earthworks and verify material their subcontractors moved and stockpiled on a weekly basis. When this wasn’t possible, interior 360 Walkthrough inspections were used for quality assurance.

Using this combination of drone-based imagery and external scans to verify measurements against pre-designed BIM models, Southbase created lower, more accurate costs and estimates for their clients. Unsurprisingly, these site reality capture methods quickly translated to remote work.

Operating Amidst a Global Pandemic

In this new way of operation, surveyors can visit sites much less frequently, saving both Southbase and their clients significant time and money when it comes to labor. “Using 360 Walkthrough for QA’ing gives us a true picture of what is happening on-site over time,” Martin explains. “We can now fit design and build plans onto DroneDeploy maps, giving workers more context.” And this translates into incredible capital gains – while most school projects would have taken at least a year to complete, Southbase’s latest expenditure is set to wrap in just eight months.

Martin attributes this revelation to the increased transparency and data sharing that drone technology provides. Before utilizing DroneDeploy software, all imagery was taken out-of-house, meaning that there was no regular process or consistent method of capture. Correct locations and comparisons couldn’t be reliably sourced, resulting in inaccurate estimates and dreaded rework. During this pandemic, with fewer employees on-site, new, geo-tagged images became more important than ever. “We’re able to make comparisons instantly, which is phenomenal,” Martin said.

Finding Success with Drone Technology

Southbase Construction soon found itself in the unique position of increasing business despite pandemic-level shutdowns. While earthmoving and manual inspections ate up thousands of dollars in labor costs and project hours, the same work now occupies a much smaller percentage of the organization’s time. Southbase has even been able to win bids by using interior, exterior, and facade drone surveys.

In the future, the company hopes to have a drone on every job site, but in the short term, they’re simply looking to increase drone and ground robotics adoption across project teams. We aim to support this effort and those of our other construction customers through our acquisition of New Zealand-based robotic firm, Rocos.

If you’re interested in drone software for surveying, watch our webinar on technological developments in the industry, or sign up to receive updates from our ground robotics team.

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