Flying high: Firm awarded for aerial survey in Fruita

Olsson Associates used an unmanned aerial system, or drone, to survey an area in Fruita under consideration for a Kokopelli Trail connection. The project was among the winners of Engineering Excellence Awards presented by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Colorado. (Photo courtesy ACEC of Colorado)
Olsson Associates used an unmanned aerial system, or drone, to survey an area in Fruita under consideration for a Kokopelli Trail connection. The project was among the winners of Engineering Excellence Awards presented by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Colorado. (Photo courtesy ACEC of Colorado)

An engineering and design firm has earned recognition for a project in which it used an unmanned aerial system to survey an area for a proposed trail in Fruita.

Olsson Associates was among the winners of Engineering Excellence Awards presented by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Colorado.

A panel of industry professionals judged projects by Colorado engineering firms in selecting the winners, considering such criteria as uniqueness and innovative applications, fulfillment of client needs and value to the engineering profession.

“Each year as we celebrate great engineering feats, we see firsthand the impact of successful collaboration and planning and what it takes to engineer Colorado’s future,” said Marvinetta Hartwig, president of the ACEC of Colorado. “It is important for our citizens to understand what it takes to maintain our state’s quality of life and how engineers are protecting resources and solving complex issues to infrastructure that will sustain well into the future.”

Olsson Associates — a firm that operates a total of 28 offices in eight states, including an office in Grand Junction — won the award for its aerial survey for a proposed Kokopelli Trail connection.

The City of Fruita hired the firm to stake survey control points that were used to guide a pro bono unmanned aerial system survey of the project area. The drone produced a product that allowed city staff to view and interact with the survey, editing data to remove trees and other blockages to produce a realistic, three-dimensional vision for the proposed trail. The drone also required less manpower and resources than a traditional ground survey.

The city saved $20,000 in fees, which it plans to use on the design and construction of the trail.

Olsson Associates was looking for pilot projects for its unmanned aerial systems services. The firm is among the first in Colorado to earn an exemption under federal regulations for commercial operations. Those operations include surveying, but also inspections and photography.

Olsson Associates and the other Colorado winners will advance to a national engineering competition set for April in Washington, D.C.