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Drones on the Construction Jobsite
April 11, 2018 at 8:00 AM
by Shawn Foret
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Drones are more than just the cool toys on the construction jobsite these days, they’re robust assets that many construction companies are leveraging to work safer, more efficient, and to produce better quality work, which leads to high profits in an industry known for low margins.

Also, the cost of drones is relatively low, but many people underestimate just what drones can do in construction, so they purchase an inexpensive drone and use it to spy on crews to determine if they’re working when the boss isn’t around. That’s like using a pocket knife as a key chain instead of maximizing its multiple uses.

6 Uses for Drones in Construction:

  1. Marketing Photos & Videos – Many architecture, engineering, and construction firms have utilized drones for their project portfolio images for years, including making breathtaking aerial views
  2. Surveying & Modeling – Both pre-bid and throughout the project, drones can provide real-time data collection to create more accurate models of buildings, structures, and the ground. With this data, project managers can more accurately determine cut and fill quantities for groundwork, which can lead to more competitive bids and reduced waste.
  3. Inspection Videos – Drones can provide high-resolution photos and videos of structures that would be hard, unsafe, or just cost-prohibitive to view such as inspecting oil rigs, tunnels, and bridges. Some companies are using drones to inspect windows on high-rise buildings, which can be done in hours instead of weeks while requiring no rigging and provide better documentation.
  4. Safety – Besides inspecting areas that are unsafe to view, drones can keep an eye on cranes to alert potential hazards and even detect if workers are not wearing safety equipment like gloves, glasses, and hard hats.
  5. Jobsite Progress – With the ease and speed of drone photography, project managers can document jobsite progress and send clients updates. Some drones literally crawl the floor of a jobsite (note, these are not aerial drones) and automatically document daily progress.
  6. Measuring Stockpiles – For contractors with aggregate piles, drones can quickly and safely measure how much material is on hand, and do it much more accurately than a human. Using a drone can reduce data collection from hours to minutes, so you can realistically take daily measurements of each stockpile.

Drones alone aren’t the only tool at play for many of these solutions, and having a bird’s-eye view isn’t the only benefit (partly because some drones don’t fly). Drones impact also comes from the software, including AI (Artificial Intelligence). For example, a roofer can use a drone to inspect a roof, which automatically detects damage to the roof, and the software can provide the precise amount of shingles needed to replace the roof.

Simply put, the power comes from the data drones can provide that allow construction companies to make better decisions more quickly. After Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit the United States, drones were utilized to assess damage more quickly than the traditional methods of flyovers with airplanes and helicopters, or driving to each location. This quick information made the response much quicker and even more accurate because the right tools were deployed to the right areas.

I hope you see that drones are more than just cool toys used for fun. Their impact is felt on a construction company’s bottom line by doing many tasks more efficiently and safer. We’ve seen the benefit of using drones to minimize rework, provide better feedback to clients, and even mitigate litigation with increased documentation. Another plus of using more innovative construction technology is the ability to attract young, tech-savvy talent to your team because the construction industry as a whole continues to suffer from a worker shortage.

A good IT firm that understands construction can help you evaluate the ROI (Return On Investment) of using drones and ensure your infrastructure can support the increased data and software specifications. Don’t forget to do your homework on drones too. You need to evaluate the laws to fly a drone because there are specific (and fairly new) requirements for this emerging technology. For example, drones over 4.4 pounds have specific stipulations set by the FAA.

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