A Closer Look At How Drones Are Used In Construction

What was once simply a bird’s domain — the bird’s eye view — is now being populated by low-flying drones as well. Also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), a drone’s eye view is becoming indispensable on construction job sites. Over 100 global drone manufacturers currently exist, including the birdlike-sounding Parrot drones. Parrot’s signature ANAFI USA camera drone was designed for the U.S. military, but these drones (and practically all drones) are being utilized globally in countless ways.

The use of drones in industry

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Drones are most commonly known for their use in the filming of recreational videography and vacation footage uploaded to YouTube and other social media sites, but they have a vast array of uses. Amazon, for example, famously launched Prime Air (its first test of an autonomous delivery took place on December 7, 2016). However, the company must meet all regulatory conditions before they can officially deliver packages via Prime Air. The service provides an example of the debate surrounding the use of drones in delivery, which has an unclear role in the future.

As drone technology continues to grow, commercial or non-recreational usages are similarly on the rise. These usages include surveying, mining, GIS, industrial inspections, agriculture, humanitarian aid delivery, and construction management.

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Drones enter the construction industry

2018 marked the first significant uptick of commercial drone usage in the construction sector, increasing well over 200%. The industry continually struggles with inefficiencies, as studies have shown that some large construction projects run up to 80% over budget and take 20% longer than anticipated to complete. Unfortunately, these statistics sound familiar to many in construction management. It’s a balancing act of managing multiple deadlines and many teams (engineers, contractors, excavators and other subcontractors) requiring frequent updates and decisions to be made by numerous stakeholders.

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A UK study on the impact of drones determined many benefits of using commercial drones on construction projects. This study found that drone usage was key in slashing planning and surveying costs. It also increased accuracy and efficiencies markedly, and eliminated site disputes over project statuses.

How drones are used

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Data that once took days to accomplish now takes hours with a single flight by a commercial drone. 2D and 3D data collected includes a complete site map with GPS points and the accurate measurement of distances, elevations, and surface volumes. Drone technologies are being designed and implemented specifically for construction management, with the ability to seamlessly integrate drone data into platforms already used, such as ESRI, Procore, Bluebeam or OneDrive. And with repeated site surveys, the construction lifecycle is documented in full — drone data ensures accurate and retrievable information at all points during the construction process.

In construction management, the most valuable commodity is the people working on a job site. Drone technology increases construction site safety and security, allowing you to inspect hard-to-reach places with minimal to no risk of accident and injury to a worker.

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Building codes and building materials have changed and evolved a great deal throughout the history of modern construction. The use of drones in construction is no longer something you’d only hear about in science fiction. The future of drone technology is happening right now, and the benefits to construction management will prove to be a game-changer in the industry.

The article was written by Jennifer Axley.

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