The Future of AEC is Here - What's Holding You Back From Scaling Up with AI?

Imagine where your business would be if you could find a way to do more work while working less.

As in, tackling more projects and hitting deadlines with ease while cutting back on overtime. Bringing on more clients and boosting revenue without all the late nights and weekends.

Probably sounds too good to be true, right?

What if it's not?

AI is already drastically altering the efficiency of the construction industry everywhere you look. Project teams are analyzing real-time project data with AI to nail down schedules and budgets. Field crews are fighting labor shortages and maximizing productivity and safety with autonomous equipment for everything from excavation to demolition to bricklaying. 

AI especially has the potential to revolutionize the land surveying sector of construction. A report by RICS identifies 88% of surveying tasks as candidates for automation. Autonomous operations could soon cover everything from contract development to UAV data collection to drafting of civil design plans. When the industry is looking at such a widespread potential for AI implementation, what’s holding firms back?

To some, AI might be perceived as intimidating, superfluous, or detrimental to jobs. But what are its true risks vs. rewards? Let’s take a look at four common mindsets that might be preventing your land surveying firm or department from seeking out AI solutions:


1. AI will ruin the surveying job market.

AI may not be the job-eating entity you think it is – it just might be the tool that allows continued growth in spite of a tight labor market.

It’s no secret that land surveying and drafting positions are becoming increasingly difficult to fill. Additionally, a surge of impending retirements in the surveying industry is only going to make the labor shortage more pronounced. 

AI is primed to take care of select repetitive tasks, like tediously copying lines in CAD, creating archive records, or formulating standard reports from templates, thereby alleviating some of the pains of the current labor shortage. However, AI will never truly replace creative thinking, personal connections, or other human intangibles that affect decision-making. Surveyors are here to stay, and you’ll always have job openings you’re looking to fill. 

Yet, AI could still be a major draw for potential employees. When you consider that 71% of millennials take into account how a company embraces technology when choosing where to work, being on the cutting edge could be crucial for attracting qualified candidates in today’s workforce.

When it comes down to it, AI is not only poised to help land surveying firms handle workloads during the labor shortage, it could also be the digital incentive that helps attract and retain top talent.


2. AI will replace jobs - I'll have to let my current employees go.

While it's true that AI can automate certain manual jobs, AI specializes in replicating repetitive, tedious tasks. Is it really any surveyor's dream job to sit and draw parking lot lines and topography grades all day? Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to let geospatial AI wade through all the tedious data, freeing up your employees for more creative or engaging undertakings? 

AI is on track to be the obvious, efficient choice for simple tasks moving forward. By integrating AI into your workflow, you can actually help employees expand their career horizons by liberating them from menial work and training them with skills that address the new challenges presented by AI. This could be anything from programming to data management to new client relations.

AI shouldn’t be viewed as an entity that will replace employees, but as a tool that complements them. In an increasingly digital world, implementing AI actually creates opportunities for career development with modern skill sets that will increase your employees’ value. In the end, this not only benefits individuals but also your company and the industry as a whole.


3. Things are fine the way they are. AI tools are unnecessary and expensive.

Land surveying is actually a profession that's always been on the cutting edge. When you consider that the profession dates back to the Bronze Age, it's amazing to think of how far surveying technology has come. Understanding the history and theory behind your practice is crucial, and manual methods certainly have their place. However, can you imagine if you were routinely using only plumb bobs, compasses, chains, and theodolites to collect data and then drafting all your deliverables by hand, while other firms were using modern-day GIS and CAD? 

You couldn't compete. 

For land surveyors, the status quo has never been an option. Even though keeping up with technological advances will always come with some upfront costs, staying efficient and competitive is a necessary part of the job and well worth the investment.

Consider geomatics and UAV data collection. At this point, you’ve probably devoted some of your budget to these processes, but have also experienced the time and cost-saving benefits of these hot industry trends compared to manual methods. However, technology isn’t stopping there. The impending next level is to use geospatial AI and autonomous drafting to process the data, opening up the potential for up to 70% reduction in drafting time and 80% savings in drafting costs.

Eye-popping efficiency like that is hard to ignore, and word of geomatics and other innovative construction technology is spreading beyond the immediate industry. These methods are starting to be more widely accepted and even highly sought after in project proposals - just take a look at the language in the infrastructure bill

In a profession that’s always evolving, the competitive advantages of in-demand tech will likely quickly outrun implementation costs. You can’t afford NOT to invest.


4. We’re interested in implementing AI, but we just don't know where to start.

We get it. The thought of trying to tackle AI in-house can be pretty daunting. Implementing your own AI tools and programs is not a casual project for the average firm. 

The thing about AI is, not only do you need the technical know-how to develop machine learning algorithms, you then need massive amounts of data to fine-tune them. So, even if you could create your own AI tools, they would only be based on limited data from your own projects.  

Conversely, if you partner with a firm that specializes in AI, their highly-trained algorithms are constantly analyzing data from hundreds or thousands of projects from a wide range of clients. More input means increasingly efficient and effective output.  In other words, it might be in your best interest to outsource.

Outsourcing gives you the technical expertise without having to start from scratch in-house. It also provides access to AI products and services that are built on a comprehensive set of data. When it comes to AI, bringing in outside experts is an effective way to get you up and running.


The future of land surveying is rooted in AI. Don’t let stale misconceptions or insecurities keep you from exploring your options. Contact AirWorks to learn how leveraging outside expertise in geospatial AI and autonomous drafting can help your business stay competitive and do more with less.

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