Drone Technology In Construction: Uses Beyond Site Surveys

by Apr 19, 2019

From BIM to foundations to jobsite monitoring, drones are being used for more and more jobsite tasks. In this article, you’ll discover unique ways drones can be used in construction.

Construction companies employ a lot of heavy equipment, but some of the heaviest lifting can be done by the smallest piece of equipment – drones. Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that can be a very effective tool in keeping construction projects on track and under budget. They are used for a wide variety of tasks in the construction industry, with the ability to easily access large or difficult job sites as well as tall and complex buildings.

Drone Usage Up 239% YoY

According to a May 2018 report by DroneDeploy, drone usage in construction has increased by 239 percent year over year, compared to 198 percent in mining and 172 percent in agriculture. However, most drones used on construction sites today are off-the-shelf models – which is a step in the right direction – that vastly underutilize the technological capabilities and benefits. To get the full benefits of a drone on your construction job, you should be looking at different types of drones – or specifically, a commercial drone.

All About The Data

Drones can be used to provide data to prevent common construction mistakes in activities like site balancing, concrete layout, quantity tracking, fulfillment verification, and schedule tracking – all with real time data collection. Although some drones can handle more advanced jobs like thermal photography and mapping, most drone work in construction today is for aerial site photographs, replacing the need to hire an expensive plane and pilot.

There are even companies that will provide drone services for construction, such as Precision Hawk, so that your company doesn’t have to maintain drone equipment or train someone to be a pilot. If you would prefer to have your own equipment and trained pilots, you can send your staff to a school like Drone Pilot Ground School to learn to fly and get their 107 license to fly from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Ways to Use a Drone for Construction

Drones can be employed in your construction company in so many ways, the least of which is surveying. Here are a few key ways that drones can be used today.

  • Land Surveys & Mapping Data: Provide data and maps with less time and money and more accuracy by reducing the number of workers necessary. This eliminates the need for heavy machinery and expensive surveying tools.
  • Planning, Site Selection, and Estimating: Drones equipped with a 3D laser scanner (LIDAR) can map terrain, vegetation and water features – perfect for planning and site selection, and handy data for estimates.
  • BIM: Data from drones can create 3D models of large areas, as well as providing high resolution aerial photographs of the site and daily monitoring of the job progress.
  • Cut and Fill Analysis: Compare 3D site models to the final grade elevation to determine progress towards site balancing.
  • Volumetric Measurements: Project superintendents can track earth moving progress, using grade elevation for precise measurement.
  • Foundation and Utilities: Site workers can view overlay site designs and line work to assess layout accuracy and catch mistakes.
  • Building Inspections: Access large and complex structures with ease, including structures for demolition.
  • Commissioning New Construction: Owners can detect leaks and cracks to identify potential warranty claims.

Advanced Technology

LiDAR sensors on drones are used to augment pre-construction assessment and mapping with a 50% time savings on data capture compared to traditional techniques, while multispectral sensors can provide volumetric calculations on aggregate material, along with vegetation mapping on proposed sites. Add in thermal sensors and you can detect hidden anomalies beneath surfaces and check for proper sealing of roofs and windows with thermal imaging.

The Bottom Line Benefits of Drone Employment

Drones can be used to measure progress and catch mistakes or potential issues early in a job. Using cameras and infrared sensors, drones ultimately save you time and money. With this technology you can provide better job progress updates with highly detailed, quality images to your staff and clients. This in turn improves collaboration between key teams when everyone knows the current status of a job by utilizing drone data in a BIM platform.

In addition to collaboration and communication improvements, you can also improve upon your safety by eliminating the need for workers to climb for visualization or measurements on tall or dangerous structures. Along those same lines, you have a greater risk mitigation by identifying problems early, documenting your progress and providing accurate information about disputes.

Conclusion:

Drones can certainly help you improve upon your current surveying methods, however, if that is the only way you are putting drones to work in your construction business, then you are vastly underutilizing a multifaceted  tool that can save you on more than just time and money.

What are your thoughts?

Let me know down in the comments or connect with me on LinkedIn. I’d love to know what you think.

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