Drones for Construction

Drone Surveying Equipment Gives Cougar Companies a Competitive Edge


The mdLiDAR1000 aaS gives full-service construction contractor Cougar Companies an advantage during bid negotiations, helping them win more projects.

by Renee Knight

As seen in the October/November 2020 Issue of Inside Unmanned Systems

When bidding on construction projects, accuracy is crucial and is why the team at Florida-based Cougar Companies decided to invest in the mdLiDAR1000 aaS from Microdrones. The system gives them an edge, providing more detailed topographic surveys and a more thorough picture of sites pre-construction.

“Thereʼs been multiple occasions in the early stages of utilizing drone surveying technology from Microdrones, where we have prevailed and been successful by having the ability to provide accurate data to both the owners and engineers eliminating any questions on the big ticket items,” Cougar Companies President, Andrew Schmitt said.

And they’ve only been using the system since July. They’re now creating existing condition topos with millions of shots rather than just a few hundred. The data, which comes in the form of an LAS file with ground points, is also being used to confirm import fill quantities, giving the construction contractor an advantage on pricing.

“Having an edge in this industry is paramount, and this Drone paired with LiDAR technology gives us that,” Schmitt said. “So, we’ve been able to implement that to our advantage.”

There's been multiple occasions in the early stages of utilizing drone surveying technology from Microdrones, where we have prevailed and been successful by having the ability to provide accurate data to both the owners and engineers, eliminating any questions on the big ticket items.

Cougar Companies President, Andrew Schmitt

The team also has been using the system to verify import quantities once brought on site, Cougar Companies Director of Technology, Adam Murphee said. In a recent job, for example, they brought in 75,000 yards of import fill based on truck tickets. We were able to verify that within a couple hundred yards by flying the site again.

There wasn’t really a routine process for these types of verifications in the past, Murphree said. They would use the engineer-provided existing conditions topos to verify quantities. Because everything was based on surveyor as-builts, there was always the potential to go over, especially on imported material.

“Verifying the amount of import material is correct is a huge cost saver,” Murphree said. “Specifically, we don’t require surveyors to do as-builts anymore because we can do it ourselves. And in the past if we needed to verify something, it would be me out in the field, and that would take a lot of time, so it’s definitely a time saver as well.”


When Cougarʼs team decided to invest in a drone to help them monitor construction progress and more accurately bid on projects, they knew equipping the system with LiDAR would be key. While photogrammetry is great for topographic surveys of dirt on cleared sites with nothing in the way, it doesn’t work well in areas with trees and other vegetation. LiDAR makes it possible to fly over wooded sites and get a good topo.

LiDAR also saves time. When working with photogrammetry, processing all the data collected during the flight can take hours, especially if they’re taking images of a larger site. 

“LiDAR gives you the ability to get through trees and still get data from the surface, and it does it in a fraction of the photogrammetry processing time,” Murphree said. “That’s huge. A dataset that might take half a day to process with photogrammetry is done in 10 to 15 minutes with LiDAR.”

Flights typically take three or four hours, depending on the site’s size, Murphree said, so it might only take half a day total to go from nothing to actionable data. Typically, he’s looking for an LAS file that has ground points. He can use that to create a ground surface to compare against the existing surface model and a model of what the site is planned to look like by the end of the project. 

A point cloud created by data collected from the Cougar Companies' mdLiDAR1000 aaS

The Benefit of Working with Microdrones

After doing the research, Cougar decided on the mdLiDAR1000 aaS because it is a reliable, economical system that offers an all-in-one package. Unlike with other systems, he didn’t have to worry about buying separate software or other add-ons; the solution came equipped with everything he needed from flight to data processing. It’s also pretty easy to use in terms of hooking up the LiDAR and get-ting actionable data.

“When you look at everything together, it really was the best system,” Murphree said.

Microdrones has proven easy to work with as well, providing Murphree with plenty of support and training. After he purchased the system, Microdrones sent a trainer to spend a week with Murphree, who is the one who operates the UAS. During that time, they went over everything from the flight system to the batteries and the proper procedures for flying and collecting data.

The Microdrones team is also very responsive, Murphree said. He knows any time he sends an email, no matter who it’s to, he’ll get a reply within 30 minutes. They Microdrones team is also willing to offer assistance in other areas of the business, and has even helped Murphree make website updates that promote the company’s new drone services.

A Good Investment 

In just a few short months, the mdLiDAR1000 aaS has saved Cougar Companies money, improved efficiencies and helped the company win more projects, which is exactly what the team was looking for when they made the investment over the summer. For more information on Cougar Companies visit cougarcompanies.com

If you or your business would like to learn more about adding drone surveying equipment like the mdLiDAR1000 aaS to your workflow, CLICK HERE to speak with a representative from Microdonres.