Olsson Drones Capture High-def Highlights of High-rise Demo

Joe Duggan, Communications

December 21, 2018

The implosion of twin residence halls one year ago at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln lasted just seconds, but the impact will last for years.

Students and faculty at the UNL College of Engineering deployed computer sensors to collect data from the demolished structures and nearby buildings. With reverse-engineering, they are investigating just how weight loads transferred as the 13-story Cather and Pound residence halls collapsed on Dec. 22, 2017.  

Olsson helped the college extract even more information from the quick work of 500 pounds of dynamite, thanks to a couple of the firm’s resourceful drone pilots. In fact, UNL selected Olsson as the only outside team authorized to operate an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) within the potential danger zone of the blast site.

Olsson flew two drones about 300 feet away from the dormitories as synchronized detonations leveled the buildings. Drone pilot Ryan Meints, an Olsson senior technician in West Des Moines, Iowa, later gave the raw video and still images to the college.

Ryan also edited the Olsson footage into a high-definition video. A highlight reel of a high-rise demo, the clip shows angles captured by Ryan and drone pilot Chad LaMontagne, an Olsson project management specialist in Omaha, Nebraska.

“It was an amazing sight, seeing how symmetrically the buildings fell,” Ryan said.

Spoiler alert: The video also features reverse segments in which the esteemed dorms appear to rise from the ashes.

Richard Wood, assistant professor of civil engineering at UNL, said the Olsson footage offered additional perspectives and provided a valuable supplement to visuals obtained by the college’s drone.

“This (Olsson’s footage) is essential to get the qualitative shape during the collapse sequence,” he said.

The images and data obtained from the demolition have already proved fruitful in terms of model calibration and adjacent building study, he added. And Christine Wittich, assistant professor of civil engineering, is using information obtained from the demolition in her teaching.

Ultimately, the study of the planned collapse could help engineers design buildings better able to withstand unplanned catastrophic events.

Olsson’s video only hints at the UAS services Olsson can offer clients. A drone can produce much more than videos and pictures; it can give clients information on their projects they simply can’t get any other way.

“The possibilities are endless with the drone,” Ryan said. “At this point, we’re only scratching the surface.”

Some of the drone services offered by Olsson include:
• Topographic mapping, AutoCAD contours, aerial overlays, and Google earth images.
• Surveying to delineate floodplains, utility corridors, microsites in remote locations, and predesign land surveys for nearly any construction project.
• Infrastructure inspections, including those for streets, highways, railways, traffic volumes, wind turbines, solar arrays, power poles, and confined or inaccessible spaces. Video and stills can be relayed off-site in real time.
• Construction videography to create a time-lapse record at a job site, track inventory of building materials, and gauge the movement of soil and water from a given location.

Check out this video for stunning drone images of Olsson projects.
Drones are quickly becoming an essential instrument in surveying. Improved 3D modeling allows the creation of orthophoto maps, in which multiple landscape images are “stitched” together and corrected to be as accurate as traditional maps.

“Clients get to see their properties as they sit today – not Google earth images that are four or five years old,” Ryan said. “Every time we’ve handed these images off to clients, they have been beyond impressed.”