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Look, up in the sky. It’s a bird! it’s a plane! It’s a drone!


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Improving safety and efficiency on projects is an important consideration for any construction company, and to that end, some are turning to unmanned aerial aircraft to take on all manner of tasks.

You may have already seen an unmanned aerial aircraft buzzing around a jobsite. The range of uses for these zippy little remote-controlled vehicles in construction are vast, and at a relatively low cost of entry. Of course they can be used to photograph projects underway to monitor progress, keep track of equipment locations, more efficiently deploy on-site resources and inspect difficult-to-reach projects like bridges or high-rise buildings for quality control. But that’s just the beginning.

The data collected by drone is typically stored in the cloud, which then is turned into usable maps and models by human operators on the ground. 

Drones can be equipped with 3D mapping sensors that, using lasers, collect data at any stage of a construction project. Using software, that data can be turned into highly detailed 3D structural models, volumetric measurements and even topographical maps. And it can be done much faster, safer and with greater accuracy than their earthbound human counterparts.

The data collected by drone is typically stored in the cloud, which then is turned into usable maps and models by human operators on the ground. The linchpin to turning this advanced data collection is the software, and many companies are emerging to offer their own versions to construction companies looking to incorporate drones into their roster of workers.

Some companies, like Kespry, promise survey-grade topographic information gathering from completely autonomous drones, which means no learning curve for operators to familiarize themselves with the controls of the drone vehicles. Using GPS, Kespry Drones collect high-resolution aerial images, which are then transmitted to its cloud and are then made available for use however the project manager sees fit. Unlike static topo maps, drones can be flown over sites daily to ensure the map data is always current and accurate, allowing supervisors to keep track of even multiple concurrent projects with relative ease.

Using drones to monitor ongoing projects is a way project managers can ensure the job is being done on time and on budget, without requiring daily visits back and forth between jobsites. Drone technology enables a much more granular look at progress on the ground, ensuring resources are being properly distributed, taking note of potential problems and mitigating them before they start. Since time is money with construction projects, the faster an issue can be discovered, the better.

According to Fortune, the U.K. Green Building Council estimates that 15% of materials delivered to construction sites ends up in landfills as a result of scheduling and purchasing mistakes. Drones can provide up-to-the-minute materials management information visually, eliminating the need for estimates on expensive resources like sand and gravel, for instance.

Drones can be equipped with 3D mapping sensors that, using lasers, collect data at any stage of a construction project. 

The Federal Aviation Administration until recently had prohibitive regulations in place that slowed the adoption of drones for commercial use, but those regulations have since been loosened, throwing open the door to construction companies to make use of the technology. Some of the new requirements laid out in Part 107 of the FAA regulations are as follows:

  • Commercial drones must not exceed 55 pounds
  • Drones should always be kept within the operator’s line of sight
  • Drones must be equipped with anti-collision lighting for use during twilight
  • The maximum allowable altitude is 400 feet above the ground (or higher as long as it remains within 400 feet of a structure)
  • Flight speed is not to exceed 100 miles per hour
  • Drone operators must receive a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating, or be under direct supervision of someone already certified

The new relaxed FAA regulations have construction companies clamoring to start using the technology on the job, and before long it may become a common sight to see and hear commercial drones zipping around construction sites.

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