Construction and the Benefits of Drones
In recent years, UAV technology has been one of the standout tools aiding the construction industry.
Approximately $10 trillion is spent annually on construction sector goods and services. With such an enormous amount of money dedicated each year, roughly 13% of the world’s GDP, experts are always looking for ways to increase productivity.
The most impactful solutions, which promise greater efficiencies, originate from innovation and technology. In recent years, UAV technology has been one of the standout tools aiding the construction industry. In many cases, drones are not only more efficient at a given task, but also more cost-effective.
For those reasons, they present many stakeholders with win-win solutions.
Within the construction industry, some typical applications of drones include: Mapping and surveying, inspections, safety and risk mitigation, equipment monitoring, and project management.
Stakeholders at every level — from executives to site superintendents — find that the data collected from drones is both timely and useful. The ability to quickly launch a drone and gain a real-time assessment of an active construction site is a game-changer.
Beneficial reasons to use drones in surveying and mapping
Surveying and mapping are two of the most widely used drone applications in construction.
Traditionally, site surveys and mapping have required the services of a survey team. Once scheduled, these teams will take accurate measurements using tools such as 3D scanners and theodolites.
The data collected is analyzed and used to generate site maps, as well as a variety of other products. Some examples include stockpile volumetric measurements, site layout plans, and recording the progress of onsite work.
While the data gained from a ground survey team is accurate, there are some drawbacks to the method. In many cases, the teams are independent contractors that require advance scheduling. Oftentimes, work must be suspended in the survey area for safety reasons, and it takes time to analyze data and generate products.
Drones are easily maintained onsite with a minimal impact on existing operations. A small space for charging batteries and storing drones is all that is required.
Training pilots is easily accomplished, especially with the assistance of a company specializing in enterprise clients.
Enterprises focused trainers typically offer courses in not only the basics of flying but also in mission-specific tasks such as mapping and data collection.
Advances in positioning sensors, and the quality of camera payloads, have increased the accuracy of drone surveys over the last few years.
In fact, platforms such as DJI’s M210 RTK industrial drone can achieve a relative vertical accuracy of approximately 2 cm and a relative horizontal accuracy of 1.20 cm.
Speed is another advantage.
By some estimates, drones can complete a survey three-to-five times faster than ground survey personnel. There are numerous software platforms, such as Pix4D, that automate the process, allowing the pilot to focus solely on flying safely.
A final advantage of using UAVs for this task is accessibility.
Drones can reach areas in steep terrain or dangerous environments with ease.
For example, assume your construction project requires an initial survey of a cell tower in a remote section of the national forest. Getting a survey team into the area with all their gear would likely be more challenging than using a drone.
The terrain can also significantly restrict the ability of the team to use equipment, such as a theodolite. The aerial survey of a UAV is only minimally affected by these challenges.
Bringing It All Together
Drones have the real and proven potential to positively impact your bottom line. With a relatively low initial investment, stakeholders up and down the chain will see the benefit of adding drones to their construction operations.
Whether you are looking for cost-saving initiatives, risk mitigation, increased situational awareness, improved equipment monitoring, or a real-time solution to project management, you should consider adding drones into your arsenal.
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