AI Nails It: Startup’s Drones Eye Construction Sites

Aspec Scire is developing consumer drones to provide remote inspection services.
by Scott Martin

Krishna Sudarshan was a Goldman Sachs managing director until his younger son’s obsession with drones became his own, attracting him to the flying machines’ data-heavy business potential.

Sudarshan quit Goldman after a decade in 2016 to found Aspec Scire, which pairs drones to a cloud service for construction and engineering firms to monitor their businesses.

A colleague from the banking giant joined as head of engineering and former colleagues invested in the startup.

Business has taken flight.

Since its launch, Aspec Scire has landed work with construction management firms, engineering firms and owners and developers, including a large IT services company, Sudarshan said.

“The construction industry has very low levels of automation. This an industry that’s desperately in need of increased efficiency,” he said.

On-Demand Drones

Aspec Scire licenses its service to construction management firms, general contractors, surveyors and drone operators who offer it to their customers.

It can replace a lot of old-fashioned grunt work and record-keeping.

Its drones-as-a-service cloud business allows managers to remotely monitor the progress of construction sites. Videos and photos taken by drones can build up files on the status of properties, providing a digital trail of documentation for fulfilment of so-called SLAs, or service-level agreements, according to the company.

It can also show whether substructural building elements — such as pilings and columns — are keeping to the blueprints. The service holds promise for heading off safety issues and saving construction firms a lot of time and money if they can quickly catch mistakes before they become problems requiring major revisions.

Image recognition algorithms are also trained to spot hundreds of problems that could be dangerous or cause contractors major headaches — hot water lines next to gas lines, for example, or forgotten 50-amp outdoor plug-in receptacles for Tesla owners to charge from.

“We will be the ones that analyze data from construction sites to provide actionable insights to improve the efficiency of their operations,” he said.

AI Nails Construction

Sudarshan, who led technology for a division of Goldman, is like many who use NVIDIA GPUs to tap into fast processing for massive datasets. After studying the idea of drone data collection for construction, he put the two together.

He fits a banking industry adage: You can take the person out of Goldman, but you can’t take Goldman out of the person. “Goldman is so data driven at everything. And I can see this industry is not data driven, so I’m trying to see how we can make it more so,” he said.

Construction data is plentiful. Aspec Scire uses millions of images for training its image classification algorithms that apply to about 20,000 aspects of construction sites. Training data continues to grow as customers upload images from sites, he said.

Aspec Scire also provides trained models for the compact supercomputing power of Jetson TX2 onboard DJI drones to quickly process images. It trains its algorithms on NVIDIA GPUs on Google Cloud Platform, including the NVIDIA V100 Tensor Core GPU.

“Without GPUs we wouldn’t be able to do some of the things that we’re doing,” Sudarshan said.

Aspec Scire is a member of NVIDIA Inception, a virtual accelerator program that helps startups get to market faster.


Image credit: Magnus Bäck, licensed under Creative Commons