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Drones the new Uber?

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Just as Uber changed the transportation business, Hangar is revolutionizing the drone industry for construction companies.

Drones have become popular on construction sites, in fact, about 90 percent of the companies Hangar works with have their own drones. But until recently, they weren't being used for much more than taking a nice picture or video of the jobsite. Hangar is now making it possible for companies to not only get photos of construction sites but to also download and work with the data collected by the drones. 

“They come to Hangar because they don't feel they are getting all the value they want out of their data,” Oren Schauble, vice president of marketing for Hangar, said.

Hangar developed the ability to repeatedly send the drone to the exact same spot to snap pictures, making it possible to see the project's progress in a specific area from the beginning to the end. 

Now with one call companies can arrange to have a drone and operator come to the site as often as the company likes whether it be weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. The photos collected by the drone are then combined with an aerial data software package to create usable data for companies.

Qualified Operators

Hangar's mission is to make drone use as hassle-free and effective as possible for companies. Instead of purchasing their own drone that may only be used once or twice a year, it may make more sense for companies to contract with an outside company. Hangar provides the drone and the commercially-licensed operators. They also take care of needed insurance and ensure all the legal requirements are being met while the drone is in use.

“We want to make it as easy as possible. Don't think about drones, imagine they don't even exist. It's about getting you the data without any other hassle required,” Schauble said.

Data Types 

The operator brings the drone to the site as often as needed throughout the project, which allows hundreds of images to be captured.

It collects two types of data: one is a collection of pictures shot from overhead to create a 2D flat map from above, and the second is a collection of photos that allow the project to be viewed from 360 degrees. Once the footage is downloaded, project managers and supervisors can click on the photos and move the picture around to see the project from different angles. The high-resolution photos also make it possible to zoom in on different areas. 

“The reason it's so high resolution is because we're not just taking a photo or two or a video, we take hundreds of photos and stitch them together into high-resolution images in the cloud so you can have really interactive data instead of just a plain photo,” Schauble said.

Hangar developed the ability to repeatedly send the drone to the exact same spot to snap pictures, making it possible to see the project's progress in a specific area from the beginning to the end. Typically a company will choose two or three points it wants the drone to focus on, Schauble said.

“Because we can capture it with a high degree of accuracy it can actually be brought in for things like models and survey calculations,” he said. 

As the data is collected, it is processed by Hangar so the construction company can access it from their computers, look at the project from different viewpoints, measure it, and use it in its workflow. The combination of the photographs with the software package have made it possible for various companies to do very detailed work such as counting how much steel is on the ground, calculating how much the volume of dirt changes from week to week, or measure distances, Schauble said. 

Pre-construction and Special Needs

Typically the drone service is purchased after the project has begun, but several companies have purchased it for projects prior to construction. By having footage taken prior to the work beginning, companies have an opportunity to train crew members and to give everyone a closer look at the site and possible problem areas.

Companies are also using the service to do inspections if there is a spot the company is concerned about, Schauble said. For instance, if the company is concerned about an especially complicated rooftop, they could ask for a drone to be on-site on a specific day to check a hard to reach area. 

Potential Cost Savings

The possibilities for this technology is continuing to grow. Hangar only began offering this service last September. Now that it has been used for various construction projects, new data uses continue to be found. 

“Since it's new there is no baseline yet about how much is saved, but we are really excited about the potential for the clients,” Schauble said.

Companies are finding it saves time by allowing everyone to look at data at the same time, even if they are in different locations. Companies are also finding new uses for the footage after the project is complete.

The potential uses for this data has companies eagerly jumping on board to integrate this new technology, Schauble said. “They love it! It's a really exciting time in technology and a really exciting time in the construction industry,” he said.

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