Drones in the Construction Industry
The surge of interest in drones has been one of the greatest leaps in technology in recent memory. Not since the advent of the personal computer has so much been promised on a single platform for so many different fields. Recently, the drone world has begun to turn its eye to the construction industry, and the potential for savings and improvements is staggering. Surveying, safety, security and even resource tracking, all this and more is now at our fingertips.
Construction Booms with Drone Automation
In 2015 America spent over $1.12 trillion on construction, that is higher than any of the previous years since the 2008 financial crash. In fact, it’s even higher than 2008, which clocked in at $1.07 trillion. The business is booming like it has never before and private construction makes up over than two-thirds of that boom – more than $824 million.
That kind of money attracts entrepreneurs, so it’s no wonder that companies like 3D Robotics, DroneDeploy and Kespry are putting their products and services in the ring. Kespry’s drone, the aptly named Kespry 2.0 can fly over 150 acres in 30 minutes, providing aerial data without the need for a human pilot. Even self-built and off the shelf drones have the capability to provide an astounding range of information with the use of basic cameras and new software. Money talks and Kespry recently secured $10 million in funding from venture capital firm, Lightspeed Venture Partners.
So what can construction drones do exactly? What benefits does a drone have over, say, an experienced human surveyor? In short – they can do a lot more, with a lot less. That’s the kind of technological advancement few can quibble with.
Jobsite Mapping with Drones
Drones can use their onboard cameras to complete accurate 3D models of existing and new structures with a speed that is unparalleled when compared to humans using traditional and expensive equipment and machinery. But speed isn’t all they’ve got going for them; they can also complete accurate topographical maps in areas that it may be hard to find the correct data for using conventional means, meaning no more nasty surprises when the job is already halfway to completion.
The drones can also provide overlays of the original plans with the recorded data, letting you fine tune the parameters before commencing work. Necessary temporary roads and structures can be planned in advance and plotted into the 3D maps on the fly. Best of all, a drone could give you all this data in just a few passes over the property. Compare that with the time and cost associated with traditional methods and their benefits become hard to ignore.
Fighting Material Misuse with Quadcopters
Even wastage–one of the largest costs for construction sites–will be affected. The drones can use volumetric measurements to accurately determine the size of stockpiles like gravel, lumber, and rebar. Kespry’s new drone even uses deep machine learning to identify equipment and machinery on site, translating it into figures that are immediately useful. This means stockpiles can be quickly updated, excavation volumes automatically assessed and equipment requirements calculated. By doing so, the drone provides accurate data for the project manager, meaningless unnecessary spending, more actionable information and more effective business decisions.
Drones deliver even more:
What else is possible with this new technology? With the ease of use and cloud connectivity, drones can be used to monitor progress, on more than one project if necessary. A project manager can cover multiple sites, even across the country, with the click of a button. Measurements can include perimeter, distance, and volume, while the video feed can provide vital and up-to-the-minute information on the progress (and potential problems) onsite.
The video feed can even be used show progress to clients, as the Apple campus has been doing for its fans. Whether they’re especially demanding or managing the project remotely, a photo or video can save both parties significant time in phone calls and emails. The data can also be used to keep extensive 3D records of the changes on a day by day basis. Best of all, it costs no more to do this than it does a single mapping, as the drone is onsite and ready to be used at a moment’s notice.
Structural inspection is a cinch with a drone, allowing project managers, architects and safety specialists a close look at areas of the construction that would normally require extensive and expensive equipment. Subcontractors are usually authenticated with a visual review, but using a drone can provide oversight and accuracy that simply couldn’t be achieved without boots-on-ground in the past. So you can stay in the office and approve the work from afar. All of this adds up to more savings and less time wasted. A great combination in any industry.
Drone Security Services
Worried about security on site? Use the drone to get a bird’s eye view to detect and handle any potential security issues before they are abused. Drones can also be used to perform automated patrols of a defined area, recording security footage (even utilizing infrared cameras,) and acting as a deterrent to any would-be thieves, or using the accumulated footage as evidence if the worst does happen.
One Product, Many Services
Remember, one drone can accomplish nearly all of the above, no need for multiple purchases or separate specialist equipment. The software handles the raw data and translates it into meaningful and actionable information for your site. When you consider what the total cost of the above services would be using traditional methods–potentially across multiple projects–the savings are impossible to ignore. At the moment we’re on the cusp of a revolution, and early adopters will benefit most. But as the use of automated drones becomes more and more widespread by construction companies, you won’t be able to stay competitive without them for long.