Comparing data sets with CAD overlays

Comparing data sets with CAD overlays

DroneDeploy is the leading drone software platform for autonomous flying, mapping and sharing map data. 

In 2017 the need for drone software solutions within construction increased in demand. Our primary target at the time was agriculture. In order to target the construction market we needed to develop various tools that solved major problems within the space. After collecting data from our users one of the main feature requests were cad overlays to compare data layers at various phases of a project. 

My Role

At the time I was the only Product Designer at DroneDeploy as well as their Visual Designer.  My role was to lead the cad-overlay design from research to providing a design solution.

Design Process

The process I use varies depending on the level of understanding and scope of the problem.  Generally, at a high level, the design process consisted of:

Understanding the Problem -> Sketch Solutions ->  Prototype -> Validate -> Iterate if Needed

The Problem

During the planning phase and development phases of a construction site there are many challenges that can quickly become costly. By allowing construction managers and engineers to compare data layers of a site it allowed construction companies to cut cost and work more efficiently.

Users and Audience

The main target audience for research were the following:

  • Construction Project Managers: 

    An assistant superintendent utilizing drones on the construction site he manages. In order to increase his ability to manage quantities of materials on site and to check on his dirt supplier. He regularly measures excavation progress and stockpile volumes and keeps a log.

  • Company Administrator: 

    Works in the future tech department of a general contractor. He believes Drones are going to revolutionize progress reporting and quality control for his company, saving them from costly mistakes. He is responsible for growing the drone program, but struggles to convince job sites to adopt new technology.

User Research

In order to understand and verify that this product was worth building I needed to understand how cad-layers were used. From a product perspective we need to strategically target features that would bring users the most value with the least cost.

A few of the questions that we needed to explore were:

  • What were some use cases?
  • When and how were the cad-overlays used?
  • How many and what type of layers were compared?
  • How accurate did the overlay have to be relative to the orthomosaic?
  • How technical and familiar are these users?

The image above is an example of data collected from 5 individuals. In this case we used stickies and grouped them by categories to find similarities across the interviewed users.


After collecting and synthesizing all the data collect from user research. We determined this was a feature worth investing on.

The assigned PM, lead engineer and I determined that as an MVP users should be able to work with one data layer. It was also important to be precise when comparing data so we needed a way for the user to easily align both layers.


Now that we fully understood the problem and had determined an MVP it was time to sketch and create a prototype for user testing with InVision.

We had determined that the MVP would allow end-users to:

  • Create an overlay
  • Allow users to easily align their cad overlay with the orthomosaic layer below.
  • Make layers visible and invisible
  • Delete layers

After determining the features it was perfect timing for crazy eights. It is a sketching exercise to generate as many ideas as possible within 10 minutes. In this scenario it was myself and a PM sketching solutions. The idea is to generate as many ideas as possible in a small window of time.

The Illustration below represents how users could easily align and use markers as a reference point between two layers. The top layers represents the CAD overlay and the layer below is the orthomosaic layer.Sketch flow of adding a new layer to compare data:

Prototyping and User Testing

After collecting all the sketch solutions and voting on the best solutions. I then created a prototype with InVision to user test. We fixed a few issues on the flow and interaction design after conducting user testing based on task completion.

High Fidelity Design

The DroneDeploy’s application was mostly based on material design. We already had a few components that we could re-use to quickly develop the solution. We decided to use an overlay modal. I designed the interface to be simple to decrease cognitive overload.

Delivery and Go To Market

Once we have a version that is ready for development, I would setup a design pointing meeting to outline all the features and answer any questions regarding the design. I would also collaborate with the PM and marketing team to plan a go to market plan.


There was an increase of Enterprise accounts. We also had a use case of a construction company saving over 100k because they caught an issue earlier on using the feature.




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Making data accessibility faster within organizations and enabling secure sharing across parties.