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By John Biggs
November 26, 2018
Data analytics and drones are two emerging technologies that, it could be argued, have been welcomed into the construction industry with open arms. It stands to reason, then, that it would only be a matter of time before companies began looking for ways to combine the two technologies to amplify their respective time-saving and error-reducing capabilities.
Enter drone analytics, a bustling young market helping industries, including construction, perform detailed survey and site analyses for a variety of project types. Using drone-based platforms to map jobsites and crunch project data allows companies to rapidly perform these time-consuming tasks which in the past were often done manually and, perhaps most importantly, difficult to keep current without committing even more hours to perform an up-to-date survey.
Komatsu is among a handful of companies exploring the data-gathering potential for drone aircraft, prioritizing the vertical as a pillar of its Smart Construction initiative. The company seeks to provide end-to-end workflow optimization at every construction phase using integrated hardware and software products.
After several years spent testing various commercial drone mapping and analytics products, Komatsu America Corp. has partnered with Propeller Aero on a solution that represents a big leap forward in the aerial surveying space. It takes only a few hours for Propeller’s processing machinery to analyze thousands of images taken from high above a jobsite by drone. The system then produces a collaborative, cloud-based 3D model accessible by tablet or desktop based on those images.
From the model, users can make precise height, volume and slope calculations and measure change over time to ensure projects remain on schedule. By leveraging technology, this can obviously be done faster and with greater accuracy than with standard surveying methods. The images and models can be quickly and regularly updated to ensure every stakeholder is in the loop with the most current information at all times.
“Worksites are starting to see the real business value of accurate, up-to-date drone data," says John Frost, VP of Business Development at Propeller. "It's all about empowering worksites with the information they need to make data-driven decisions to reduce costs, ensure quality, and use resources efficiently. Now more than ever, stakeholders on site, or in the head office miles away, can stay up-to-date with exactly what's happening on the ground."
Komatsu is currently rolling out its Propeller-powered solutions to customers across North America. The hope is that data points gathered with this method will enable customers to make better data-driven decisions and deliver finished projects more predictably and efficiently.
"Anyone can fly a drone—it's what you do with the data that makes an impression," says Chris Faulhaber, Smart Construction Business Manager at Komatsu Equipment Company. “Propeller provides fast, accurate data processing via a web platform that is unparalleled. The platform is easy to use, facilitates healthy collaboration and delivers vital information quickly — so everyone can work together better and faster than anticipated.”
There are currently several major U.S. companies in the drone analytics space, including DroneDeploy, PrecisionHawk,and AeroVironment. These companies are using drones for a wide variety of data analytics applications including thermal detection, aerial materials monitoring, ground exploration and geolocation tagging. Some companies have taken the specialization route, like SenseHawk, a U.S.-India startup whose focus is delivering drone-based data insights specifically for the solar industry. The company recently raised $2 million in funding to build out its technology and expand geographically.
The market for drone analytics may be young, but all signs point to a bright future. According to Markets and Markets, the drone analytics market was valued at $1.17 billion in 2016, but is projected to reach $5.41 billion by 2022.
Some technologies are without a doubt flashes in the pan, but the depth of integration and level of reliance drones and data analytics has seen across construction over the last decade is a strong indicator that both are here to stay.
To learn more about how to successfully manage large construction sites with drones and mapping tools, be sure to sign up for this free Nov. 28 webinar here.
You can also check out Procore and DroneDeploy's integration, which allows you to easily import high-resolution drone images from your DroneDeploy account into Procore projects, by visiting this page.
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