Perspectives 03.19.2019

Design by Drone: New Perspectives for All Stages of Design

By Ryan Rideout
Soaring over South Lake Union

The architect’s design process is rapidly changing with the introduction of new and evolving technologies. Drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, have become a versatile tool for the field of architecture and design. From understanding real-time site conditions, to analyzing post-occupancy performance metrics, drones can provide valuable information at all stages of design. 

Perkins and Will’s in-house drone program is led by licensed pilots that assist teams in aerial site analysis, documenting existing site conditions, marketing, photogrammetry, videos, 360 panoramas, and environmental backgrounds for virtual reality visualizations. Since August 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has mandated that all commercial drone pilots are required to pass the Aeronautical Knowledge Test to become a licensed drone pilot.

By using in-house drones, the marketing teams have the versatility to quickly adapt footage and create high quality promotional videos for campaigns. Documentation of a project’s interior and exterior are important, and drone flight can capture these angles to better tell the story with still image or video. Clients can also easily check out 360 degree views from anywhere on or above to site.

Combining designers and pilots in the early phases of a project gives Perkins and Will a unique advantage when conceptualizing and developing a scheme. Geometry can be developed through the process of photogrammetry which takes the drones images and computationally creates orthomosaic maps, which are a detailed, accurate photo representation of an area.  This map creation is done within minutes and translates real-time conditions into the concept study versus the hours or even days it would take traditionally to develop these maps.  Teams can also capture various vantage points for roof top terraces or mezzanine levels and give the client precise views within the 3D model.  As drone development matures, Perkins and Will’s process of design will continue to adapt its tools to inspire designs from different perspectives. 

Here’s a look at some of those different perspectives we’ve captured:

University of Washington School of Medicine

Univeristy of Washington School of Medicine

Lake Washington