by Andrew P. Sargeant, ASLA, Mike Fox, ASLA, Aubrey Pontious, Associate ASLA, and Russell Thomman, ASLA
Drones 101-1000 was the first Digital Technology Professional Practice Network (PPN) webinar of 2021. The PPN identified drone use in landscape architecture as a topic for which many of our members would like information and resources. The ending of the title, “101-1000,” implies covering everything from the basics to advanced topics with regard to drone use in the field of landscape architecture. The PPN may have more “101-1000” webinars on other topics in the future (our second webinar of the year, a BIM Roundtable with EDSA and SmithGroup, took place earlier this week and will be available as a recording soon), as well as a follow-up to this drone webinar.
Mike Fox, ASLA, and Aubrey Pontious, Associate ASLA, of WPL opened the conversation. Mike started by discussing why he was initially hesitant about incorporating drones within WPL’s practice. He was worried about cost, frequency of use, and other practical concerns. He talked about the unique opportunity to employ Aubrey as both a landscape designer and a potential drone pilot and detailed the negotiations that led to Aubrey becoming a stable resource within the company for drone use, including licensing and equipment.
Aubrey, prior to joining WPL, had some previous hobbyist experience with drones which allowed him to make the case for the firm to help subsidize his exploration and training for drone use in the office. Aubrey outlined some of the use cases within WPL’s practice, including marketing imagery, site surveying, and construction administration. Many of these use cases could be incorporated into any size or type of practice for relatively low cost.
Russell Thomman, ASLA, director of Digital Innovation at RVi Planning + Landscape Architecture, continued the conversation and covered more advanced drone use and techniques. Russell explained how his use of drones within the office has now developed into a wide variety of services. He made it clear that these services were not immediately economically viable or readily wanted from clients but after continued exploration they have now seeded themselves within the practice.
Russell detailed some of third-party software along with the actual hardware necessary for 3D site visits, construction administration, and 3D rendering. In combination with his Mavic 2, Russell uses a handheld 360 camera to offer a comprehensive inventory of site conditions. Russell also talked about using GIS in combination with data aggregated from the drone to “tell stories,” via ESRI web mapping tools. Russell’s ability to go beyond the conventional representation of the landscapes is a product of continued exploration and a combination of new and existing technologies.
Our Drones 101-1000 webinar—check out the full recording below—is part of the PPN’s goal to support and encourage landscape architect’s efforts in research and development of design technology in the field.