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Company Innovation of the Year: Winner

Costain – Aerial Solutions

The huge variety of remarkable innovations on this year’s shortlist ranged from highway resurfacing and vacuum lifting through to London cyclist safety and mental health provision.

But it was the stunning progress in the field of aerial surveying that marked Costain out as a deserving winner.

The company created its Aerial Solutions arm in the summer of 2015 with the aim of exploring the potential of remote-piloted airborne systems and integrating them into the contractor’s operations.

Through collaboration with suppliers and joint venture partners, these aerial vehicles have been introduced to conduct land surveying on a number of the firm’s highways projects.

Costain demonstrated how this approach produces a number of benefits compared with traditional land surveying. As well as removing the need for operatives to work on potentially hazardous sites, the airborne units can cover huge areas in a fraction of the time – more than 400 ha in a single hour-long flight.

In addition to time savings, this approach has also boosted accuracy, with the remote units able to capture 15 times as many data points as conventional methods.

The end-result is a photorealistic, geolocated 3D model of an entire project area, which can be integrated with other existing data to create a single program model.

“Costain has produced a synthesis of three cutting-edge technologies to take on a longstanding challenge, demonstrating savings in cost, time and carbon”

Judges’ comment

Costain has rolled out this innovation with the government’s Construction 2025 industrial strategy in mind, including the target of a 50 per cent reduction in project delivery time from inception to completion.

With the emergence of building information modelling and the move towards closer and earlier collaboration, the data collection phase of projects has taken on even greater significance.

The judges commended how Aerial Solutions is framing its own progress in the context of the government’s ambitions. To date, the remote systems have reduced the time required for the data collection phase by around 80 per cent.

The judging panel also lauded how Costain has empowered young members of staff to lead the way in the Aerial Solutions operation, while demonstrating strong support for this new venture and clear buy-in at management level.

The fresh thinking driving this innovation has also seen exceptional wider engagement, with the aerial technology being showcased in local schools, demonstration videos uploaded to YouTube, and seminars being held overseas to share learning.

In naming Costain their winner, the judges described it as “clearly a company committed to innovation” and praised its willingness “to take technology, embrace it and use it to tackle a practical problem”.

Highly commended: Transport for London – CLOCS High Vision Vehicles

The judges were hugely impressed with the valuable work being undertaken by TfL to reduce highway fatalities resulting from construction vehicles.

The CLOCS initiative to protect cyclists and pedestrians has identified out-of-date vehicle designs and industry attitudes, bringing onboard all stakeholders to address the problem.

Following TfL’s extensive research and commendable engagement, all eight of the major construction vehicle manufacturers have developed new products or retrofits.

This has seen 20,000 trucks fitted with enhanced safety features, as well as £5m of industry investment in high-visibility trucks, the number of which has gone from zero to 250 in just two years.


  • A-one+ Integrated Highway Services – The 1,000-tonne Challenge, A66 Scotch Corner to Hartforth
  • A-one+ Integrated Highway Services Area 14 – Better Health at Work 
  • Bam Morgan Sindall JV – The Mission Room 
  • Bourne Construction Engineering – BatLift Vacuum Lifting Innovation
  • Fast-Form Systems – Fast-Form Formwork System
  • SGN – Leading the way in gas distribution innovation

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