Drones Speed up Construction for Fort Worth's Landmark Arena

The Beck Group’s In-House Drone Operations Team Helps Project Progress at Amazing Speed

By Hailey Peng Hailey Peng
June 30, 2019

Construction progress at Dickies Arena, Fort Worth’s new cultural landmark, is racing towards completion, as the final beam was raised at its topping out ceremony. The Beck Group, general contractor of the $540 million multi-purpose facility, utilizes the latest drone technology to keep the project on track with enhanced efficiency and a rejuvenated workflow that optimizes cross team collaboration - saving up to 25% of rework. Learn how to empower your project teams and become a disruptive force in the construction industry by starting your own in-house drone operations program.

A beam went up in the air the morning of June 25 at Dickies Arena, signaling a Topping Out ceremony for the new $540 million facility that promises to add another element to Fort Worth’s Cultural District. Slated to host major events like the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo in 2020, and the NCAA basketball tournament in 2022 - the 14,000 seat multi-purpose arena is set to be a new signature landmark of Fort Worth and North Texas.

Dones for Dickies Arena 1

Dickies arena at a glance

The Beck Group celebrated the construction milestone with arena operators, city leaders, and about 900 workers on site as the project enters its completion phase. 

“Starting in March 2017, Dickies Arena is on schedule to be finished in November 2019. Project teams have been working on the project with great efficiency” says Grant Hagen, Virtual Design and Construction Manager at Beck. 


Enhanced efficiency throughout the project

Grant Hagen, VDC Manager at the Beck Group

Grant Hagen, VDC Manager at The Beck Group (Integrated Architecture and Construction), leads the drone implementation for informed planning, site situational awareness, and more efficient documentation on the jobsite. 

Grant and his drone operation team have worked on site at the arena for 15 months with DJI drones aiding in the process as high performing efficiency multipliers throughout construction. Utilized as enhanced platforms for BIM, 3D mapping, progress monitoring, documentation, and inspection tasks, the drones greatly reduced operating times while optimizing workflows throughout the construction phase. 

Aerial footage from drones helped streamline project management throughout the project life cycle, taking construction crews only a few days to complete comprehensive site mapping using DJI drones. This not only accelerated project planning but also made it more precise with enhanced site data and mapping accuracy. 

Drone overview of the Dickies Arena construction site

drones for construction infographic

During construction launches, having a drone monitor progress on a daily basis ensures on-site situational awareness, so that management and project teams are aware of real-time advancements, setbacks, and potential risks, allowing them to make informed decisions based on a comprehensive set of tracking data. 

Gary Pille, Project Executive of Dickies Arena

Aerial data collected by drones is also used to document project progress, make comparisons to design plans, and later generate as-built drawings. Gary Pille, Project Executive of Dickies Arena, told us that “Using the drones has enabled our superintendents to view the installation of piers, utilities, underground MEP, etc., and compare to contract CDs, which means image overlay on design plans on a daily basis… and allows us to detect any layout / routing deficiencies much sooner than before.”

Inspection is important in all construction projects. Being able to detect a problem early helps save enormous time and resources that would otherwise be spent on remedy or rework. Drones cut down over 80% of inspection time, taking only hours to complete missions that would otherwise take days using traditional and rope access techniques. 

Managing teams and stakeholders

Another key benefit drones bring to the construction worksite is smoother communication across teams and stakeholders. Project progress documented with drone data offers an easy way to keep everyone on the same page, so that architects, owners, operators, and management members can monitor what is going on remotely, cutting down at least 5 hours of meeting time per week and reducing re-work by 25%. 

Beck Group drone program


The information synchronization not only smoothens communication across project teams and with sub-contractors, but also helps Beck manage owners and operators of The Arena with enhanced efficiency. 


Bill Shaw, Director of Operations at Dickies Arena

Bill Shaw, Director of Operations at Dickies Arena, is very happy that the aerial footage Grant’s team captured on site has given his team the ability to prepare for venue operations in ways they hadn’t been able to before. 

By looking at images of our completed garage, Dickies Arena, and the campus footprint overall, we’ve created what we think will be a more effective traffic flow plan than we would have been able to create otherwise” (Bill Shaw). 


Alissa Cunningham, Director of Marketing at Dickies Arena


As for managing owners, Beck apparently has a very happy owner at Dickies Arena. “Having access to aerial stills and video footage has given us the opportunity to share our progress with the community. People love hearing updates on our progress, and when we’re able to show unique angles of Dickies Arena through drone imagery, the reaction is that much better” says Alissa Cunningham, Director of Marketing at Dickies Arena.

Building a Drone Program Playbook

What’s it like to have an in-house drone operations team?

For Grant, Dickies Arena is the 75th project his drone operations team has flown for. Beginning in 2014, using the DJI Phantom 2, Grant initially implemented drones on the jobsite by simply placing “eyes in the sky.” Hagen’s team quickly moved on to leverage more sophisticated applications including the generation of BIM models, creation of 3D site maps, and execution of challenging inspection missions utilizing thermal imaging. 

site planning drone photogrammetry

Site planning with photogrammetry 

project documentation with pdf overlays

Project aerial documentation with pdf overlays

Thermal inspection visualization

Thermal inspection visualization

After spending years searching for the perfect solution for his company, Hagen’s experience with drones has grown exponentially, from initially operating early versions of DJI’s all-in-one Phantom aircraft, to more comprehensive solutions consisting of modeling platforms and custom SDK’s and payloads designed particularly for mapping, surveying, and inspection. 

Dickies Arena interior

Beck Group drone program 2

To date, there are 10 experienced pilots on Grant’s team. Together they have flown more than 11,000 hours, covering over 15,000 acres of construction ground for Beck. 

Bryce Morrow, Chief Information Officer of Beck

Value in innovation is determined by each project and then applied to other projects when it makes sense.  We have found that many technologies are found innovative through the process that we apply at the project. The way we have implemented drone usage at Beck is one way we are helping get the right information to our project teams when they need it.” Says Bryce Morrow, Chief Information Officer of Beck.

Don’t limit your imagination

The Beck Group and other industry leaders will continue to explore cutting-edge drone technologies. For businesses that are considering starting an in-house drone operations team, Grant gives his advice from years of experience,

Don’t limit your imagination of how these tools can help your project teams. The sky literally is the limit on how this technology can enhance the way we deliver projects. Believe the hype, become a student on what is required to make a successful drone program at your company for your specific needs.”


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Building a Drone Program Playbook

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Hailey Peng
About the Author Hailey Peng

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