Brent Cross Town £7bn development improves workflows with Esri drone software

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Brent Cross Town, a joint venture between Argent Related and Barnet Council, is using Site Scan drone flight management and image processing software from Esri UK to improve the efficiency of groundworks surveys and how it communicates progress of the new neighbourhood. The software is being used to create 3D point clouds, textured meshes, video and 360-degree panoramas, enabling highly accurate and consistent updates to be shared amongst all stakeholders as the development progresses.

A new park town for both Barnet and London, Brent Cross Town is an ambitious new neighbourhood spanning 180 acres, incorporating 50 acres of parks and playing fields. Delivering 6,700 new homes and 3m sq ft of office space for 25,000 employees, the town will be a major new office destination. New and sustainable transport links, a high street, local amenities, services and world-class sports facilities are also part of the scheme.

Previously, drone surveys were commissioned to third parties on an ad-hoc basis, with outputs defined by the business purpose they were satisfying, such as project management, logistical planning, marketing or legal. Brent Cross Town wanted to create a more consistent and efficient method of monitoring site progress and make the overall drone programme easier to manage.

Lily Wydra, GIS, Land and Property Manager at Argent Related, explained: “Before Site Scan we had no pre-existing software specifically for planning flights or managing and processing drone imagery outputs. Now we have a consistent framework for managing all flights through our supply chain, processing images, creating high quality geospatially-enabled outputs and disseminating them to multiple stakeholders. As a cloud-based service, Site Scan also means we can work seamlessly with contractors, such as civil engineering contractor Galldris Services Ltd, who we’ve currently requested to carry out drone survey work.”

The drone team at Galldris has been regularly flying drone surveys with its fleet of DJI drones and using Esri Site Scan under Argent’s operator licence, since March 2021. Galldris has also been helping to maintain part of the network of GCPs (Ground Control Points) to aid in the auto-georeferencing of drone imagery. The team now processes monthly drone outputs to support internal operations and delivers them to Argent who utilise and disseminate them through a collection of ArcGIS Online maps and apps.

Outputs include 3D point clouds which have been helping construction managers, technical teams and contractors understand how changes in site topography will impact the site and for performing volumetric calculations, on how much earth needs to be excavated and removed. While video, static images and 360-degree panoramas have been used to provide project teams, investors and the public with engaging visual updates on construction progress and by legal teams when working on leases with potential tenants.

“Site Scan has enabled us to create a formalised and repeatable approach for generating digital drone outputs, irrespective of the survey provider, which is also proving to be more cost effective than commissioning one-off surveys,” commented Wydra. “Drone usage is increasing so having a scalable framework to manage flights and streamline the integration of data captured into GIS, BIM and CAD workflows is proving invaluable. Ultimately, better drone outputs support a better data-driven decision-making process.”

Site Scan connects seamlessly with Argent Related’s enterprise GIS, Esri ArcGIS and is already enriching geospatial datasets. Drone data can be quickly published into ArcGIS Online to enhance pre-existing online maps, including those on-site or shared with Barnet Council, who has started to publish some data layers in its Masterplan. The regular drone surveys also proved invaluable for monitoring progress remotely during COVID-19 lockdowns, when site access was limited.

Brent Cross Town is the first Argent Related project where Site Scan has been deployed but the developer business is planning to use it at other major developments, including King’s Cross and Tottenham Hale, as the demand for drone data increases.

“Deploying Site Scan at Brent Cross Town has streamlined how we carry out surveys, visualise large-scale developments and communicate site progress,” concluded Wydra. “Engineering is a precise school of activity and drones are a relatively new part of the workflow but now they are working alongside tried and tested engineering practices and surveying activities. Site Scan is helping to build a more coordinated and efficient way of managing our drone programmes and will soon move to other developments as we scale it across the business.”


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