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By Josh Newland
April 25, 2016
Up-and-coming technological innovations are always a good way for entire industries to improve daily operations and boost performance rates for employees. This is especially true for the construction industry, where companies must rely on cutting edge technology to ensure both long-term success and the safety of workers.
While inventions like the automation of the entire building process and the advent of robotic laborers are still mostly in the realm of science fiction, there are several other ways construction firms are integrating more technological advancements into daily operations. Some of these up-and-coming technologies are revolutionizing the way the construction industry conducts business include drones, wearables and all-in-one mobile software solutions.
Unmanned aerial vehicles or unmanned aircraft systems, commonly referred to as drones, are becoming increasingly regular fixtures at planning, development, and construction sites.
With these handy devices, construction teams can fly the tiny aircraft across virtually any type of land while obtaining topographical details of the terrain, providing project managers with new perspectives on surveying and mapping terrain. Armed with digitized schematics, architects and engineers are then creating 3D models of construction sites allowing them to expand the bounds of architecture and design.
In addition, as Construction Business Owner noted, these remote-controlled aircrafts offer amazing safety benefits, in terms of giving inspectors the ability to evaluate hard-to-reach areas, such as underneath a bridge or a section of a high rise 200 feet in the air.
For the moment, the legalities of utilizing UAVs remain somewhat murky, as evidenced by Amazon.com's attempt to use drones for its courier services. Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration has not technically made commercial use of drones illegal and requires commercial users to obtain a Section 333 exemption and an airworthiness certificate. Although an official regulation from the FAA has been a decade in the making, many expect the administration to make a final ruling on commercial licensing requirements in 2016 that supersedes the Section 333 exemption.
The Section 333 exemption places certain restrictions on the aircraft specifications. Drones must be between the weight of 0.55 and 55 lbs. The device does not need an exemption if it weighs less than 0.55 lbs. If it weighs more than 55 lbs, it must be registered through the Aircraft registry process. The operator must not fly faster than 100 mph and at an altitude higher than 500 feet.
For those commercial construction firms that do not want to jump through these regulatory hoops to obtain the exemption and certification of airworthiness, there are plenty of drone companies who rent out their services.
As engineers and innovative companies continue to install electronic trackers, sensors, and digital capabilities into everyday objects, the Internet of Things grows in leaps and bounds. This phenomenon is creating an interconnected workspace where companies can measure and analyze a range of sensory data previously unavailable.
As noted by Engineering News-Record, one of the most immediate iterations of the Internet of Things to reach the construction site is the use of wearable technology, such as the smart hard hat and the safer safety vest. While these products are mostly in the beta testing phase right now, the handful of companies working on them intend on making these construction industry assets indispensable to the job site.
The smart hard hat takes its name from another piece of "smart" technology that has recently become indispensable to daily living, the smartphone, as well as another new technology ready to disrupt the transportation industry: the smart car. The smart hard hat resembles a traditional hard hat used on the average construction site, but it is embedded with a 360-degree wireless camera. This camera streams a live video feed of the worker's surroundings into a visor attached to the hat––a feature many hope will ultimately reduce on-the-job accidents and boost productivity. In addition, the visor can augment reality by displaying images on the visor to create a dynamic scene, turning a vacant lot into a virtual viewscape of what the new building will look like in that spot.
The safer vest houses GPS-enabled devices that let construction firms track workers’ locations across expansive and crowded job sites. Furthermore, the GPS-positioning system also monitors machinery and equipment relative to workers to ensure their safety and reduce danger levels. Construction firms also gain the ability to track manpower delivery rates and labor performance.
While drones and wearables create greater perspective and safety features for construction sites, there's one present trend that should create better cost savings and higher profit margins: integrated mobile technology and software platform solutions.
By implementing an all-in-one construction platform, project managers can track a wide range of pertinent data about every individual job and employee. Construction software reduces time spent traveling between different job sites, since every person involved in a particular job can instantly upload all relevant information directly to the cloud-based platform. This gives each team member real time access to drawings, RFIs, punch list items, change orders, schedules, photos and more. With a mobile office at every general contractor and project manager's fingertips, operations are streamlined, productivity escalates, and profits rise.
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