01.17.18 Kespry

Fred Smith Construction Transforms Surveying With Kespry

An Interview with Gino DiGiacomo, Survey Manager, Fred Smith Construction

Fred Smith Construction Company is one of the largest civil construction companies in North Carolina, with over 900 employees. Fred Smith Construction does turnkey construction including grading, utilities, curb stone, asphalt, structures, surveying, and also has four asphalt plants. Gino DiGiacomo is the Survey Manager for Fred Smith Construction, where he manages surveying and GPS grade control departments and is a licensed drone operator. Gino has 20 years of survey experience.

We recently talked with Gino about his experience with Kespry:

What kind of sites are you flying with Kespry?

Our jobs include residential, good size school projects, commercial sites, and all four of our asphalt plants. We have about 50 projects covering 12 different project teams. We’re just getting off the ground and we’re really excited about it.

How is your approach to surveying a new site with Kespry different compared to your process before?

As soon as we start a new project, one of the best things we can do is to verify the topo that has been shown in the plans. Many times, the existing conditions data is off vertically, so right away we do a topo of the site. In the past, a site of 185 acres took about two weeks to topo it conventionally with GPS rovers. With our internal survey rates of $700 a day, plus overtime for a couple of days, this site cost just over $10,000. Now, with the drone, it’s a complete game changer. Before, we were frantically trying to get out there and open up two weeks to be able to even do the topo, but now, we can handle this within a day.

What is the process for you to fly a site with Kespry?

You set your flight information set up one time, then you can change it if you want to adjust the flight height or other options, so it’s easily repeated each time. When we go out to the site, it’s just a single base station setup. With other drone technologies, they encourage you to cover the site with other control points.

All I do is fly, and come back to the office. I don’t have to do any processing. Basically, the iPad that comes with the drone communicates to the Kespry system, and then sends the information back to Kespry. Kespry does all the processing, and then all the data is on the Kespry Cloud.

We know that you did some work to confirm the accuracy of your Kespry Drone. Can you talk about that?

Because I’m a surveyor, I just had to know that the information was right, so we went ahead made a dozen aerial control points so we could check it horizontally and vertically. I was finding that we were wasting our time because it was on the money. It was survey accurate. So now we’re now just setting up that base station and flying, and we trust the data. It’s outstanding. The data processes over the internet, and within a few hours, we have a data set that we can use in a bunch of different ways.

How are you using Kespry’s surface comparison tool to manage changes in earthwork project activity and communicate that with your project teams?

The cut and fill tool allows us to calculate the differences from one flight to the next, and this helps us to better manage our earthworks plan, to see how we’re tracking. Not just against where we were a month ago, but where we are going forward towards the design, so it’s an incredible tool.

It’s very simple to create the report on the website, to produce the pdf, and then print or email it to other teammates. I feel like the project managers and the general superintendents need to have this so that they can review the status of the job, and they’re not in the dark, they’re not shooting from the hip, but they actually know the true state of their job site.

Can you share an example of the volumetric calculations that you’re doing with Kespry?

We are working on a project to develop a Publix grocery store and we wanted to measure stockpiles on the site. It takes about 20 minutes to fly the site and then we use the data on the Kespry Cloud. You can draw polylines around the stockpiles, and come up with a quantity of volume in seconds. It’s incredible, and it’s right. I’m checking and I’m finding it to be right on the money. It allows the project team to remove errors, or even having to go out there and have a grade control member topo the pile.

How do you use Kespry data in your workflow with your existing CAD software?

The biggest benefit for me in survey is the money and time that the drone data analysis saves. Using Kespry data that we receive through the Kespry website is one of the greatest benefits. I can import the drone topo data into a third-party software like AutoCAD or Carlson. It comes in as DXF and we get a high-resolution image. It’s survey accurate and I can use the data.

Importing design files into Kespry is great. From the Kespry Cloud, you can import the grading plans, and then do site checks on the website. It’s easy to do. You don’t need to be an engineer or a surveyor to see the true progress to the design, and what’s tremendous for our company is that a lot of the project teams don’t have access to AutoCAD, and they don’t need it. They can do this on the Kespry Cloud, they don’t have to have that software to benefit. The Kespry Cloud website allows them to do their comps to the plans. We can check progress against the plan. It’s amazing, it puts the project team in the driver’s seat, and they have so much information.

Thank you, Gino, for sharing your experience with Kespry!


Click here to calculate how much you can save on survey-related expenses using drones for planning, bidding, and earthwork grade management.

Click here to hear Gino talk about his experience with Kespry in the “Drone Earthworks Planning, Bidding & Project Management” webinar.