The benefits of using drones in construction

High-level view

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones in construction is the new norm. Builders and general contractors are becoming experts at drones, and they’re using them to replace workers more and more. There are many advantages of using the new technology, but there is a certain cost that comes along with it.

Construction companies believe that drones in construction are here to stay because they bring benefits and create a better working environment.

Some companies have trained personnel to manage drones during everyday operations. Industry experts indicate that the potential labor savings related to drones is near $130 billion, and they predict UAVs and robots will replace 50 percent of all jobs by 2030.

Main uses of drones in construction

Among the many uses of drones in construction, one of the most important ones relates to post-storm recovery efforts. After the 2017 hurricane season, for example, drones were used in surveillance and flooded regions to assess the areas affected by downed trees, power lines and other safety hazards.

The main advantage is that drones can capture these post-storm assessments without sending crews into these dangerous areas.

 

Recovery efforts are led by drones detecting damage to infrastructure, bridges, telecom infrastructures and levees that have failed. There are many other applications discussed below that incorporate many trades and applications in construction. Many associate drones with surveying, but safety and communication are two key factors associated with drones in construction.

Drones In Construction Flying

Surveying applications using drones

Two or three years ago, construction crews were using two- or three-man crews to perform surveying. But when GPS became the next big thing, those crews dropped down to one or two people. Now, a single employee can manage and capture thousands of data points using a drone, reducing the time spent and errors in capturing data.

The productivity ratio using a drone compared to traditional surveying methods is much, much higher.

 

The drone surveying method eliminated the need of having veg management crews, heavy equipment creating paths to remote locations and safety personnel when working in challenging areas. Not only that, but advanced computer software can receive the data almost instantly and create preliminary topographic drawings with just the touch of a button.

Safety inspections using drones in construction

Drones can lower your experience modification rate (EMR), reducing the amount of money your construction company pays related to insurance costs. Construction companies are using drones to conduct safety inspections at large sites, recording and streaming feed that is being used to understand employee behavior.

A drone inspection can identify potentially unsafe situations, so they are addressed faster — reducing the risk of potential injuries.

Another potential use for drones is surveillance at construction sites, which can lower the cost of security personnel and vehicles used to monitor sites. Job progress is also tracked using drones, so reporting is easier and more accurate than in past years; capturing real-time progress and project updates as they occur. A recent study from Georgia Tech indicates that job efficiency improves by 50 percent  when using drones in construction.

Drones for structural and element inspections

Bridge inspection companies have found that using drones is the best way of completing inspections of structures that are close to the water, in the middle of a large field or in hard-to-reach areas. Sometimes crews can take days to get to remote locations and work through many permits and fees to access a single location.

Drones can fly to remote locations, even near water, eliminating the need for boats, crews and trained personnel to access said areas.

 

Drones are even used to inspect wind turbines, eliminating the need for personnel to climb 100-plus-meter-high structures.

Drones In Construction Site

Estimating with the help of drones

Did you know that drones can also acquire data that can help you complete an estimate for a project? Instead of having multiple site visits to inspect data from construction sites, construction companies use drones to prepare volumetric data to cut and fill, and to gather information about existing infrastructure that will need to be demolished as part of the construction activity.

Drones can help identify rivers, obstructions and other factors that could affect estimates. Geolocations, infrared sensors and other imagery equipment are used to capture data that is converted into estimating units.

Using drones for maintenance

Another important application of drones in construction is related to detecting leaks using thermal imaging, and providing aerial imaging to assess a building’s performance.

Drones are useful during insurance claims, as they are used to capture and provide evidence of construction progress. Insurance companies are using footage from drones instead of spending thousands of dollars in labor-related costs capturing data used during claims management.

Communication and logistics enhanced by drones

Communication and reporting are enhanced based on images and data captured by drones. Aerial images and footage from drones are also useful for logistics and route planning, without the need for a crew to drive over different areas. The information being captured results in savings from manpower and fuel by choosing the shortest and fastest route.

In conclusion

As you can see, there are many applications for drones in the industry that can reduce labor needs while increasing technical-related opportunities to manage and control UAV or drones in construction.

Juan Rodriguez
Juan Rodriguez is a Project Management Professional (PMP) and a registered professional engineer in Illinois and Puerto Rico with over 20 years of experience managing large civil projects. An expert in renewable energy, power projects and project management, he has international experience working in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean. Juan also offers his services as a consultant to construction firms and construction-related professionals. Connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.