|Commercial drones are used in agriculture and the renewable energy industry. / Photo by budabar via 123rf|
In the past, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were perceived by industry insiders as gimmicks, or worse, toys, according to Mike Hayes of Construction Europe, Europe’s construction industry news platform. Presently, contractors are utilizing drones to gather data on their sites efficiently at little cost.
While few drone specialists assert that machines “could be a game changer,” they argue that using them in conjunction with sophisticated software could potentially improve productivity on construction projects.
Need proof? Commercial drones are used in agriculture and the renewable energy industry. Indeed, drones are proven to have positive impacts on these industries. For contractors, it is time to leverage the capabilities of drones.
How Are Drones Used In the Construction Site?
1. General Construction Data
Jenny Adams of Scotland-based software firm Cyberhawk described the powerful technology that can be used side-by-side with drone flights. She said you don’t have to install an app on your desktop. You can just log in as long as you have an internet connection.
You can zoom in to about 20 or 30 mm in detail and compare datasets. You can use a slider to monitor the construction’s progress. Let’s say a contractor told you “they’ve completed something.” You don’t have to visit the site. All you have to do is log in and see the data, which can be at most a week old, “but you’ll be able to match up with what they’re talking about, Adams explained.”
You’re also using photographic interface to provide visual context. Moreover, document registry enables you to search tags and find where a piece of equipment is exactly located on the site. It can also produce 3D models to pull them into CAD (computer aided design). Everything can be shared and logins can be configured with various permissions for contractors.
With the help of drones (and its accompanying software), clients and stakeholders have access to detailed, real-time reports to keep tabs on the progress, explained Zacc Dukowitz of UAV Coach, a website dedicated to drones.
Without UAVs, clients will have to visit the site in person or hire a helicopter to collect photos and videos, which can be costly. If they do, the shots could be outdated after the next working day.
|Everything can be shared and logins can be configured with various permissions for contractors. / Photo by Sumetee Theesungnern via 123rf|
2. Structural Integrity Checks
If we take an image of an oil rig, for example, any changes in the structure are highlighted as “hotspots” by the drone. The drone then details concerns such as bulges in flare tips or any issue that needs to be addressed quickly, but could be missed if checked manually.
One concrete example would be commercial drones company Delair’s new version of its long-range UAV, the DT26, which helps operators conduct remote monitoring. It incorporates “architecture for adding user-specified sensors to the platform.” These sensors can be quickly attached, giving the drone capabilities such as “ultra-high resolution, multispectral and hyperspectral, thermal and oblique imaging.”
Equipped with optical gas sensors, the Delair drone could be flown to inspect equipment and pipelines and monitor leaks. The DT26’s thermal sensors could detect defects in equipment, as well as to gauge the performance of solar collection systems.
3. Productivity/Accountability Monitoring
Alternatively, maps created with aerial data can aid project managers in monitoring their crews’ productivity. Using the map, managers do not have to investigate the site to see why “work isn’t proceeding as quickly as anticipated.” By studying the map and zooming in at a certain area, they can identify the problem and review the condition of the project straight from their office.
Thankfully, data recorded by drones is permanent. Hence, managers and construction personnel can review the data anytime. If an issue arises in the project, they can refer to the record to understand the factors that led to the problem. A written report containing images created by a person is not comprehensive. Sadly, it could not be used “for the same kind of in-depth analysis of a site.”
Data collected by drones help construction firms gain a better understanding of the site before they begin constructing. Pre-planning data can include changes in elevation, possible drainage spots, and other factors that can help determine the most optimal location to dig, build, or stockpile materials.
Moreover, this data can also give designers and engineers a preview of how the building might look next to an existing one. This helps them understand how the project will affect the area from a practical and aesthetical standpoint.
Construction companies can use drones to conduct more aerial surveys considering the collection of data via these machines is made cheaper. This data can help companies to track changing conditions that may jeopardize safety. However, safety is not just about protecting the workers. It’s also about finding access points where civilians could walk into the site and potentially injure themselves.
There are drone and software companies that are eager to promote their technology in the construction industry. Drones equipped with cameras and sensors can capture essential data and help managers find missing equipment or monitor leaks. Construction companies should start using drones in their daily operations to boost productivity, save time, and cut down on unnecessary expenditure.