Drones at Work Part 2: The New Buzz in Construction

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Construction drone
Drones are changing constructions sites for the better.

A FOUR PART SERIES

In the last ‘Drones at Work’ article, I wrote about how drones are helping realtors increase sales by adding a new perspective to online house listings. If you haven’t read part one, then spend a few minutes to learn more about how drones are changing the real estate business. If you need a drone pilot to help your business reach new heights, then go to Up Sonder.

In part two of this series, I will look at how drones are being used in the construction industry and the enormous potential they present to the industry. Just think about this, Goldman Sachs reports that the addressable market for drones in construction is over $11 billion by 2020! Let’s find out why.

An Industry Ripe for Technology

Let me put it this way, construction and technology haven’t been the closest of friends for a while. Construction is one of the least digitalized industries in the world. On top of this, it suffers from waste (an estimated $160 billion in the US alone) and a lack of workers, with labor statistics showing nearly 200,000 unfilled construction jobs in the US. This has created the perfect window of opportunity for technology to give a helping hand and drones are ready to offer their service.

In June, Tim Chapman, a Director at worldwide engineering and design firm ARUP said, “The change in mindset is always the biggest challenge. Many want to protect the established way of doing things, but evidence from industries where technology has taken hold is too big a draw to ignore.”

Well put, Tim. If you are involved in the construction industry and want to stay ahead of the competition, then you need to know how drones can help you right now.

Save Weeks Surveying and Mapping

On a typical construction site before you start building, you survey and collect data to plug that data into building information modeling (BIM) software, like AutoCAD. This way architects can digitally model what they want to build and plan for that process. The issue is that ground-based surveying is a time-consuming process and the bigger the construction site, the longer it takes.

Aerial drone survey
Drones can survey much faster than traditional methods.

This is where drones can save you weeks of time and a ton of money. A recent case study by Brasfield & Gorrie, one of the largest privately-held construction firms in the United States, compared traditional land surveying versus drone surveying on a 60-acre construction site. They found that land surveying took 2-3 weeks while drone surveying took only 1-4 days! Simply put, drones can save you weeks of valuable time.

It’s All About the Data

On top of saving time, the case study by Brasfield & Gorrie also showed that drones produce better and more detailed data than traditional surveying methods. This is why Autodesk, the company that makes AutoCAD software, has heavily invested in 3D Robotics (manufacturer of drones) and Skycatch (drone mapping software company). Autodesk sees the potential of drones providing amazing data for construction sites and is getting involved at both the hardware and software levels. Autodesk wants to ensure they understand how to best apply this new technology to their Computer-Aided Design (CAD) program that is already used by construction companies across the globe.

Tristan Randall, a strategic projects executive at Autodesk recently was quoted in Fortune saying, “Our vision is basically a drone on every construction site.”

Drone data is great for surveying and creating aerial maps of a construction site, but that is just the beginning. Drones can also be used to make measurements, let remote teams monitor construction, and create visuals that can be used in marketing plans. The varied data (video, measurement points, 3D point clouds, picture, etc.) drones can produce makes them a powerful tool that should not be overlooked.

John Deere, a bulwark of American construction machines, partnered with drone startup Kespry in March to offer Kespry’s drones and drone services at John Deere locations across the USA and Canada. One of the things John Deere is particularly interested in is using drones to help its customers monitor their construction sites. Andrew Kahler, a product marketing manager with John Deere said they will show their customers how drones can keep tabs on productivity and track materials (for instance, earthwork volume tracking).

John Deere Drone
(Source: John Deere)

If There’s Danger, Use the Drone

Apart from saving time and providing better data, drones also make a construction site safer. Let’s say you need to make sure joints in your scaffolding are correctly fastened together. Before, you would have to send a worker up just to check. This creates added danger for your workforce because falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, accounting for nearly 40% of industry deaths in 2015. To avoid that danger all you have to do is send a drone up to inspect the scaffolding. It’s that simple!

Another way drones can improve safety is daily monitoring of a construction site before workers are allowed in every morning or inspection of a site after a storm or other natural event. Also, if you are worried your workforce is cutting corners you can use a drone to check if proper safety protocols are being followed.

Researchers at the University of Florida and the University of Nebraska envision a day where drones will be a safety necessity at construction sites. They want drones to be a constant eye in the sky that not only helps gather data but keeps workers safe. Their current research has identified three top areas where drones can be the most effective in adding safety—around booms and cranes, next to edges and openings, and in the blind spots of heavy equipment.

Make Construction Great Again

Drones can save you time, get you better data, and make the construction site safer. If you work in construction, the question is not “should we implement drones”, it is “how can we implement drones”?

Once you get your plans in place, make sure to check out Up Sonder. Our drone pilots are all FAA licensed and ready to help you make your construction business better.

If you are a drone pilot, get yourself acquainted with how the construction industry uses drones. A good place to start is some great webinars from DroneDeploy and Skycatch.

Coming Up: More Drones at Work

Next in the Drones at Work series I will take a look at how drones are being used by the insurance industry. Stay tuned!

Also, while you are waiting for the next article in the series, check out Up Sonder’s new podcast that brings you the latest news and commentary about the drone industry with a little personality.

Joe Christian

Joe Christian is Director of Content for Up Sonder, a network of drone pilots for hire and the first on-demand drone rental platform powered by UberRUSH and Postmates. Up Sonder gives business and the public access to the drone industry while providing a way for drone pilots and owners to earn extra money.

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