The Rise of Drones in Construction

Drones are becoming more widely used across the construction industry largely due to the huge advantages they deliver.

Drones provide a range of benefits over traditional methods of inspection, imaging and surveying in construction projects – whether construction companies are managing large development sites or civils projects, drones are becoming a common sight.

In the last five years, drone surveys in construction have grown by 239%, but what exactly is the construction industry using drones for more broadly, and how are they benefitting from the data they deliver?

Construction site benefits

Construction sites are often potentially dangerous, complex, multi-process areas where human interaction must be carefully monitored and managed. Any new technology with a proven ability to remove risk on a construction site is worth consideration, and although relatively slow to adopt compared with other sectors, the construction sector is now embracing drones to help them:

  • Monitor site development progress
  • Celebrate progress and project completion
  • Provide a way for key stakeholders to witness progress
  • Inspect assets during the development phase and at regular intervals for PPM
  • Provide an efficient and highly effective ad-hoc method of surveying

Cross-company use

Construction company Project Managers, Site Managers, Technology Managers and Marketing Teams are all making the most of drone technologies and drone data to help improve the way they work and to deliver rich insight to help decision making. Interestingly, the use of drones to develop marketing material is growing rapidly, and the demand for satisfying construction time lapse films is growing.

Critically for the construction sector, drone surveys are helping Project Managers to remain competitive – keeping projects on track and with their speed of deployment benefits, often ahead of schedule.

Budget management

Construction site managers are increasingly using drones to obtain real-time information enabling them to identify how sites are progressing relative to plan. These insights are making it possible to track progress but also to identify any potential issues as early as possible to avoid additional costs or adding time to the project. In the construction sector, this cost management benefit is key because construction projects are known for taking longer than expected to complete and for running over budget – it’s not unusual to see construction projects come in up to 80% over budget.

Construction companies are also using the technology to map sites, gain a broad perspective of site layout and context, and identify any potential issues with structures and surrounding buildings.

Being able to overlay CAD drawings onto orthophotos taken by drones helps construction companies compare build with original plan and make any necessary project adjustments. And of course, drones provide an accurate system of visual reporting which helps construction companies to comply with their legal obligations.

Perfect photogrammetry

The real world insights that come with photogrammetry data from drones prove valuable to construction projects where difficult to reach or large areas (particularly for civils and large scale infrastructure projects) need to be monitored. Advanced drone survey companies will use photogrammetry software to create 2D and 3D models that help construction managers see accurate distance, surface and volume data.

Being able to see your construction site ‘on demand’ is another unique benefit delivered by drones. For constructors, viewing the status of your whole site ‘as live’ or within short time frames is beneficial in maintaining accurate communication and direction to all parties on the ground.

Drone output

Construction companies will benefit from:

  • Orthophotos and orthomosaic images
  • Point clouds
  • Terrain models
  • 3D models
  • Hi-res images
  • Film and time lapse film
  • Visual progress reports
  • Thermal heat loss maps
  • LiDAR imaging

Drones in construction are expediting and informing the design process with accurate geospatial data, and are providing construction companies with data that can help to inform safety procedures, planning and pre-build risk assessments too. They are saving construction companies time and money, and improving work flows, contracting project plans and opening access to previously hard to reach sites.

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