UAVs for Construction
Yes, I will drone on about it...
Over the past few years, the use of UAVs/UAS/Drones has increased significantly. Much of this usage has been for the better, some has been for the worse. Many “hobbyist” drone pilots began to enter the market illegally and performed work against FAA-mandated certification. To legally operate a drone for commercial applications, the pilot must pass FAA certification tests that are in place to maintain both safety in the skies and on the ground. To the uninitiated, this may seem like the difference of using a gypsy cab instead of a duly licensed taxi, but it isn’t. The FAA takes its role in burgeoning drone use very seriously, and those who get caught without the proper certifications are subject to some hefty fines and possibly even jail time.
But through its maturation in industry, drone technology has found a definitive and growing place on construction project sites. Construction companies are now adjusting the way they seek to accomplish tasks based on this new technology. Construction projects are complicated, time-consuming and resource-intensive endeavors that typically involve lots of legwork, stamina and attention to detail. The use of drone technology can help minimize the legwork – accelerating schedule times and increasing safety on site.
The following are just a few of the uses for drones on the modern construction site:
Drones can quickly survey a job site and efficiently build maps. Instead of using larger human resources, heavy machinery and expensive surveying tools that produce complex data, drones can compile the data quickly and accurately, allowing the firm to cut the time and money it takes in half while providing greater accuracy.
Drones in construction have made surveying much easier by simplifying data collection, allowing the owner or manager the ability to focus their energies on putting collected data to use instead of figuring out how to get it. The drones can transmit data quickly to a live feed and SD data storage instantaneously. This makes the task of creating accurate maps and providing valuable data to numerous companies much easier. Information you acquire can be uploaded to a server where it can be accessed by individuals all over the globe who you allow authorization.
Project sites may not always be easily accessible to your clients. They may just be too busy to stop by, or they may be halfway around the world and site visits get cost prohibitive. In this case, drones can relay a large amount of information in one, neat package. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a flyover aerial or data-laden, interactive walk-through is worth what amount to the Library of Congress?
Job Site Monitoring
For project managers who routinely shuffle between multiple job sites, putting a drone in the air to monitor work progress, safety standards, incoming material inventory, etc. can save a lot of time, energy and money. The main responsibility of a project manager is to ensure the workers on their job site remain continuously productive. In any project, it is natural for there to be times of high and low energy, but a drone can help pinpoint chokepoints in your production schedule. It can provide you with a video log in case any equipment on site turns up missing.
Commercial building management relies on yearly inspections to monitor wear and tear of their structures. Traditional inspection tactics can include precarious climbs up to the roof or other parts of the structure using scaffolding or a harness. The time saving that is realized when utilizing a drone for inspection has really transformed the construction industry. Whether it is for a building, bridge or tunnel, drones have significantly simplified the inspection process and thus had a direct impact on both schedule and budget.
Better Safety Records
Drones in construction can do a great job of hovering over a location that is too dangerous for a worker to access and can save lives by monitoring workplace conditions in areas that are very hard to reach. In manufacturing plants, drones can help with reconnaissance, sending images of the conditions that can be expected before a worker is dispatched.
Plant reliability and maintenance is another area of safety code that can benefit from drone use. With drones, it is possible to send back images to the engineering and maintenance teams in order to identify the cause of a malfunction or breakdown immediately.
In the past when managers were concerned about safety issues, they would walk around sometimes very large plants hoping to get a glimpse of what the issues were. And while getting a human pair of eyes and ears on the floor is always appreciated, it may not be the best method to efficiently identify safety issues. But with the use of a drone and monitoring device, a safety manager can see what is happening in real time and can make dramatic improvements instantly.
Maintaining Schedules & Budgets
By identifying the parts of the project that are going off-track, having the ability to prevent time-lost accidents or causalities and rigorously monitoring your job sites, a construction manager will be much better prepared to remove any additions to project schedules or costs. Many construction managers will tell you that maintaining real-time control over multiple, multi-faceted projects can be one of their greatest challenges. The more information you have at your fingertips can mean more control you have over your project ultimately. And if something does go wrong on your site (and every project will have something that goes wrong on site), the real-time information that a drone provides will allow you to correct the problem quickly – minimizing losses in both time and money.
And in a nutshell, that is what drones do best on construction sites; they minimize losses while maximizing efficiencies. UAVs have proven themselves in the construction industry as valuable tools in the project manager's toolbox. And yes, I will drone on about it.