Few would deny that drones are cool. They have a broad range of uses, ranging from leisure to industry, and everything else in between. Whether taking aerial footage of your house to use as a selling point, monitoring endangered wildlife, accessing difficult and dangerous areas for search and rescue, drones are becoming ubiquitous and extremely useful.
The usefulness of drones extends to the construction sector and their use has skyrocketed over the past few years, by 239% in 2018 and with similar trends since. The aerial footage obtained by drones offers an excellent vantage point, and their data collection abilities have made them an essential tool in construction and promoting new build properties.
Use 1: Mapping and Land Surveys
Large-scale construction projects rely on crucial topographic maps, something that drones can perform very efficiently and speedily. Within just about 20-30 minutes, huge acres of land can be surveyed, saving up to twenty times the cost of conventional topographic map creation.
They can identify costly mistakes in design flaws that are not compatible with the surveyed terrain. Conventional topographic maps are expensive to create and time-consuming, and as a result, they are seldom updated once the project has taken off. With as little as an hour a week, drones can present real-time information on progress for managers and contractors working on site.
Because of their aerial vantage point and the distance, they can cover, drones can reduce the time needed to visualise and evaluate a site’s topography. This allows project managers to better manage the project by cutting down on costs, and by reducing mistakes with accurate and timely information. Indeed, keeping to construction budgets can often be very challenging for building projects, and drones can help in this regard by assessing feasibility and helping with design.
Importantly, the high-res footage captured by drones can be used by sophisticated software to digitally stitch maps together and produce 3-D models for analysis, giving useful insights into potential challenges in the pre-construction phases and saving time and money later on down the line.
Use 2: Equipment location
Huge construction sites have a large amount of equipment and machinery on site and keeping track of where everything is can be a daunting task for any site manager. However, with a quick fly over with a drone, a quick assessment can be made of equipment location and determine where it needs to be next. Drones can also help mitigate overspending, extension charges or hire charges by identifying equipment on site that is no longer needed and should be returned and removed from site.
When equipment has broken down or malfunctioned, as is common on construction sites, drones can help remotely relay images identifying the issues to the relevant personnel. This information can then be sent to the hire companies so they can assess what the likely issue is before attending site in person, allowing for the technicians to bring the correct tools and spare parts with them in a single journey.
It is expected that drones will be able to work in conjunction with autonomous vehicles, as the technology continues to evolve and develop, augmenting the use that drones have on construction sites.
Update Reports and Monitoring
Clients often like to be apprised of progress, and drones are an excellent way of doing this. With high-resolution imagery, clients can see progress at each stage of the project from various perspectives, something that is especially useful for clients that are far from the site or even situations abroad. This offers reassurance to clients and investors and helps keep the project on track.
Drones also help create a trail of documentation and data that can be used later if required, such as for settling legal issues. They can also help improve teamwork and collaboration by beaming down images to those who need them, such as designers, engineers, and managers, so they can all access the data and work as a unified whole, catching any mistakes that might have occurred.
Millions of pounds worth of construction equipment is stollen each year from sites, with only about 25% of it ever being recovered. Drones can help with monitoring the site security and make sure that only authorised personnel are using or taking the equipment. The loss of expensive equipment can cause significant setbacks and slow down work while trying to replace it.
With traditional site CCTV, the cameras are static and can only cover a small percentage of the site. With drones, however, they can fly around and cover much more ground, possibly even acting as a greater deterrence.
Safety on construction sites is always paramount on well-organized sites. There are stringent health and safety laws and codes that must be followed. Accidents can cause injury or loss of life, lower morale, impede progress, and can also be expensive due to legal and health costs. About 39% of fatalities are caused by falls, and when workers are taking manual measurements, they often climb or enter hazardous situations, something that can now be done with the use of drones.
Drones can be outfitted with things like cameras, GPS, thermal and infrared sensors, and capture essential imagery and data necessary for construction projects. This information can be relayed to site managers, workers, investors, and clients and be used to make projects run more efficiently and safely.