Do you work in the architecture, engineering or construction industry? If so, statistics say you will see a drone in a project near you very soon, if you haven’t seen one already!
Drones could be the next mainstream technology in the construction industry
Advancements in technology, coupled with lightweight building materials, has rapidly boosted the use of drones in construction. Something seemingly decades away just a couple of years ago is suddenly becoming the norm. A 2018 report by PwC estimates that there will be 76,000 drones flying in the sky over the UK by 2030. In a decade’s time, the use of drones for construction projects could become as mainstream as it is nowadays for the use of PPE on site. The same report also predicts an uplift in the construction GDP of £8.6bn thanks to the extended implementation of drones.
“In the construction space, drones are very disruptive, because, for the first time ever, they have made it cost-effective to get huge amounts of data on what’s happening on the construction site,” said Tristan Randall, Strategic Projects Executive at Autodesk. Another recent report by Engineering.com confirmed that ‘drone use on construction sites has jumped significantly in the past few years, and that it will likely continue to increase significantly in the next few years as well.’
Drone possibilities on the rise
As we wrote in a previous post about trending technologies featured at Digital Construction Week 2019, experts like Civdrone believe that drones are still underutilised in the construction industry. A majority of companies using drones nowadays are mainly deploying them to get aerial images or videos. Whilst this is still a remarkable use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), their potential goes far beyond these ‘basic’ features.
The number of organisations realising this potential and starting to exploit it is on the rise. More and more companies specialised in UAV services are appearing seemingly overnight. For example, we can now see an increase in projects implementing aerial LiDAR, 3D point clouds and digital surfaces. One of the key advantages of using drones for these purposes is a significant saving in time. Whilst traditional surveying methods are relatively labour intensive and time-consuming, taking weeks or months to survey, say, a stretch of road, a drone could do the same job in a matter of hours or days.
Together with the time savings comes an increased quality in deliverables. When comparing like for like, the output from the drone survey can exhibit a somewhat improved ‘final product’ over that of traditional survey methods. This is mainly associated in the increase of data captured. Whilst surveyors generally take points at intervals of 5 to 10 metres, drones can effortlessly take a point cloud with a grid spacing in the order of a few millimetres. This increase in quality and quantity of data requires additional desktop time to process the data. Yet when you take into account the overall time and cost of the survey, you are still saving time and money!
Health and Safety, a priority for drones as well
With Health and Safety being one of the key drivers in every construction and engineering project, an increased number of industry professionals are looking to use drones where viable. The fact that it’s an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle makes it very attractive for H&S managers and project managers. Minimising man-hours on site means less people are exposed to risks and for a shorter time. Rather than having to send a team of surveyors to a high-risk environment, such as traffic management on a live motorway, you can just fly your drone over it.
But the use of drones also introduces a number of new risks. For example, it is necessary to obtain a UAV commercial pilot license to use drones in your project. In order to get the required permissions from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), you’ll need to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of aviation theory and pass a fly test with your drone. In addition, you’ll need to develop procedures for your flights and include them in an Operations Manual. In an effort to minimise the risks associated with flying drones, the CAA has developed the website DronesSafe, where you can find the Drone Code with all relevant rules to adhere to before, during and after your flight.
Drones for inspections in construction sites
Finally, one of the most innovative ways of using drones is to carry out site monitoring and inspections. They are a great tool to get quick, accurate on-site updates. This can help you keep track of progress, inform clients of issues and monitor workers. In the video below you can see a cutting edge technology developed by the company Flyability. With a sophisticated structure around the drone, you can carry out site inspections in bridges and confined spaces without the risk of crashing the drone. Definitely worth checking!
These are just some of the reasons why you can expect to see more drones on projects near you! Have you already introduced drones on one or more of your projects? Let us know in the comments below!
At GlobalCAD we specialise in BIM projects, site surveying and 3D point clouds to 3D models. Get in touch to see how we can help you implement cutting edge technologies and processes in your projects!