The application of drones in the construction industry seems like a no-brainer. Aside from the cool factor, an unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, complements the documentary and real-time visualization capabilities of today’s construction webcams. Like construction cameras, drones can bring new efficiency, better quality, and other benefits to just about every phase of a construction project. Here are just a few.
Getting an early start.
Construction cameras typically begin documenting projects at ground breaking. With drones, the benefits of visualization technology are brought into the game earlier.
Whether it’s a new high-rise or a new highway, drones are ideal for land surveying. These UAVs scan and measure even the most forbidding terrain much quicker and more efficiently than a surveying crew. When equipped with high-resolution cameras or remote-sensing technology, drones gather images and scans that can be used to produce extremely detailed and accurate topographical maps. Laser scanning with drones is also especially useful for quantity take-offs.
Reaching extreme heights – and depths – quickly and safely.
Manually inspecting the exteriors of buildings 50 or 60 stories high or structures like cell phone towers and the upper and under sides of suspension bridges is no easy feat. There’s a heavy burden in terms of worker risk, safety-regulation compliance, and project-owner liability, and the magnitude of the burden is matched only by the importance of getting it right.
Manual inspection is also time-consuming. Depending on the structure, data collection and analysis can take months. With drones using live video feeds and high-definition data recording, it can be accomplished in a fraction of the time. Plus with a drone, it doesn’t matter if the work needs to be done high above the ground or while hovering over the San Francisco Bay.
A few things are still up in the air for drones and construction.
Despite the apparent good fit, it might come as a surprise to learn that drones are not as widely used as many people think. For example, we’re not seeing them used for routine project updates, largely because of a lack of business processes and technology to capture, edit, archive, and share images. When a third-party service is brought in to use a drone to capture a project, it’s expensive, making it better suited to a one-time use or a marketing campaign.
Plus, right now in the U.S., the commercial use of drones is a legal gray area. It’s a matter of federal legislative rules not having yet caught up with the technology, but the Federal Aviation Administration is currently developing regulations that address issues of safety, privacy, and homeland security so that drones can be licensed for commercial use.
It’s clear that drones will have their place in construction. The only thing that remains murky is how long it will take before their benefits are routinely reaped on job sites throughout the U.S.