Saving money and boosting safety and efficiency at construction sites is easier than ever with the industry’s new secret weapon: drones. Also called unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, drones are airborne robots that can be flown autonomously or via remote control. They come in a variety of sizes and designs, but all function in essentially the same way.
The UAV is equipped with a data link that allows it to communicate with its ground control station, or GCS, which is usually either a remote control or a computer. The drone may also be able to carry a payload, depending on its weight capabilities. This could be anything from a package to a sensor or data collection device. Many drones come with built-in cameras, as well.
These high-flying robots can help save your team incredible amounts of time and money at construction sites. In fact, in 2018, construction experienced higher growth in drone usage than any other industry. With a little flight training, you can have a drone up and running at your site in no time, creating opportunities to speed up your project timeline, increase site safety, and reduce costs in numerous ways.
Drones can increase value for your client and save money for your team before you even break ground on a new project. One of the greatest advantages drones bring to the table is an aerial perspective. In the past, the only way to get footage of your site from a bird’s-eye-view was by hiring a helicopter. Drones cost a fraction of the price and are more efficient, precise, and effective.
You can get detailed, crisp, high-resolution images of your site using drones. This footage is invaluable for site planning, since it is low-cost and can be easily exported to AutoCAD or similar modeling software. Drone images also make great visuals to show to clients. In a project presentation, they will impress stakeholders right away, and help you secure more new projects for your team.
Drones’ efficiency is a game-changer when it comes to site planning. Surveying that might take days or weeks on the ground can be done in a matter of hours, saving you money and jump-starting your project timeline.
Progress Photos for Clients
Drones have many amazing features, but one of the most useful in construction is autonomous flight. Many drones can be programmed to fly along a certain path autonomously at regular intervals. You could set up a drone at your site that would complete scans as often as you like, completely independently.
This feature is especially useful when it comes to progress photos. Regular ground surveys are too time-consuming to perform often, but drones are fast, reliable, and inexpensive. With the help of a drone, you can create much more detailed progress reports to show to clients. Drones can be used to take all sorts of photos of your site. You could capture images from directly above as well as closer to the ground, showing details of each level of your project.
Site inspections are a crucial part of any project and important for ensuring stability and safety. Depending on the size of your project, though, they can take hours or even days to complete. Using a drone, you can rapidly reduce inspection time and get safer, more accurate results. This is key to improving efficiency, which is one of the most effective ways to save money at your site — a necessity, since 85% of projects run over budget.
Thermal scanning, for example, will allow you to find cracks in roofs or air conditioning leaks in a fraction of the time it would take to inspect a roof on foot. Crane inspections are quick and affordable with a drone, allowing you to easily identify parts in need of repair. Since inspections all around your site are so much faster with a drone, you will be able to conduct them more often, leading to fewer accidents and damaged parts.
With a drone on your team, you won’t have to worry about being at your site in-person to check in on things. If you are overseeing multiple projects at once, you can view photos from your drone’s autonomous flight online. If your drone isn’t programmed to fly on its own, a site worker could easily be trained to operate it for you and share the footage and data it collects.
This is another great feature for improving your clients’ experiences. You can bring up-to-the-minute drone data to meetings with stakeholders, even from hundreds of miles away from the site, saving everyone hundreds of dollars in travel costs.
Additionally, remote monitoring is helpful if you have a potentially hazardous site to survey. Sending a drone into a dangerous development site will reduce the risk of injury to your team members and produce faster and more reliable results. Some project managers even employ drones for surveillance and security at their site.
Overstock and Error Prevention
Drones are capable of more than aerial photography. They are fantastic for data collection as well. Drones can be used to measure earthwork and supply quantities with astonishing accuracy. This feature in particular will save you a tremendous amount of money. Many project managers overstock their supplies to ensure they have enough because measuring or counting those supplies on a regular basis is too time-consuming and often lacks precision.
With a drone, you can get accurate measurements as regularly as needed without interrupting the workflow of your project. This greatly reduces the need to buy extra supplies.
Another reason many project managers overstock supplies is to prepare for any errors or accidents at the site. A drone can help with this, too. Those frequent aerial scans of your site will allow you to make sure every step of your project lines up with your designs. You can catch errors before they become a costly problem and quickly spot areas in need of attention.
The Value of Drones
When it comes to construction, optimizing safety and finances is key to success. The initial investment you make in a drone will save your team thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of time while also increasing safety for site workers. As an additional bonus, your clients will enjoy a more detailed, cutting-edge experience with much quicker results due to shorter survey times.
No matter the size or scale of your project, a drone is an invaluable asset, even for site surveys alone. The drone market has exploded in recent years, so it’s easy to find the perfect model for your team, no matter what budget or features you are shopping for. Whether you’re building a house or a new skyscraper, an investment in drone technology is an investment in your team’s success.
Author Bio: April Miller is a managing editor at ReHack.com who specializes in engineering and construction technology. You can find her work published on sites like Open Data Science and The Society of Women Engineers.