Alabama Engineering Company Takes to the Sky but Remains Down-to-Earth in Its Goals

CDG Engineers & Associates Survey Coordinator Josh O’Ferrell, left, and President Mark Pugh, perform pre-flight checks before beginning aerial mapping with a drone. (Contributed)

At the heart of engineering projects is accurate data collection, but gathering data has come a long way since a young George Washington hauled a surveying compass, tripod, and a set of chains to map out western lands.

Today, Business Council of Alabama member CDG Engineers & Associates, headquartered in Andalusia, is using unmanned aircraft systems, commonly known as drones, to quickly and accurately survey environmental and infrastructure projects.

“We use drones on a lot of our projects to get aerial photography for conceptual design or to get survey and topographical data,” CDG President Mark Pugh said. “Drones give us easier access and is cheaper and faster to use in many cases.”

The firm still uses conventional survey methods, but Pugh, a professional engineer and land surveyor, says surveying has significantly progressed since he first began his career as a civil engineering graduate of the University of Alabama 32 years ago.

“Surveying projects has gone from using rods and chains to Global Positioning System (GPS) surveying and now to drones on many projects,” Pugh said. “It’s remarkable to see the transformation in technology in such a short period of time.”

Incorporating drones into its services is one way that CDG has designed its firm around its clients — public entities, private corporations, and the petroleum industry.

The firm offers a full range of engineering and environmental services to its clients that also include municipal and state governments, utility boards, industries, commercial developers, and underground storage tank owners and operators.

“Our clients are building our communities,” Pugh said. “They provide some of our most basic needs like electricity, clean water, and sewer systems, and they’re creating jobs. They’re doing great work; we just help them do it by meeting their engineering needs.”

Along with developments in technology, the firm has seen many other changes during its 71 years. One being a transfer of ownership.

Privately-owned CDG is now in its third generation of ownership, and Pugh says this change is continuous. The company’s 14 stockholders, most of whom are engineers, environmental scientists, and geologists, will eventually turn CDG over to a fourth generation of owners.

“A highlight of our company is an agreement that when you reach a certain age, you’re required to sell stock down to younger folks,” Pugh said, “and that keeps the company perpetuating itself.”

According to Pugh, a benefit of CDG is the company is staffed with employees who aspire to be owners and invest their lives in growing a company with an important purpose. “We wake up every morning with the belief that we were created to build a higher quality of life for people today and to prepare for the generations of tomorrow,” Pugh said.

CDG has also seen different generations entering the workforce over the years.

“The expectations of what a meaningful job is and how that job relates to a purposeful work-life balance is changing, so we are having to adjust as well,” Pugh said. “We’re moving from traditional office space to more and more people working collaboratively off their mobile phones, laptops or from home.”

The firm has experienced an increase in its number of employees and locations as well.

CDG has seven offices in Alabama including Andalusia, Hoover, Albertville, Dothan, Auburn, Gadsden, and Huntsville and is staffed by 140 men and women who serve clients across the Southeast.

“Our growth has been a result of us understanding our clients and growing organically rather than through mergers and acquisitions,” Pugh said. “The goal is to continue growing to more than 200 employees in the next few years. We’re also working to be recognized as a Circle of Excellence firm and a Great Workplace.”

Fast-changing technology, such as the use of drones, and a shifting workforce have required CDG to deliver services in a way much different than when the firm first began in 1946.

But while CDG takes to the sky when necessary, it remains solidly grounded in its original desire to provide progressive engineering and excellent service to its clients.