Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, have come far from being niche photography gadgets only available to tech enthusiasts. Today, they’re game-changing tools that are becoming increasingly popular in commercial industries, including film, agriculture, and more importantly, construction.
Given the labour-intensive and risky nature of their work, construction companies stand to benefit the most from drone technology. In fact, experts suggest that the uptake in commercial drone adoption is due to the civil construction sector.
However, every technology comes with pros and cons, and drone implementation is not a decision that should be rushed. If you’re in the construction industry, you must carefully consider what UAVs can bring to your business.
Robust surveying and imaging
Aerial maneuverability makes drones extremely effective for capturing high-definition images and videos of a jobsite from any angle. This enables construction firms to conduct comprehensive surveys and inspections that are almost impossible to do with a manual crew. For example, inspectors can use small drones to access the hard-to-reach places of a building’s infrastructure to identify potential hazards.
Meanwhile, surveyors can use aerial imaging to get a better lay of the land without requiring a crane or helicopter. They can even transform drone-obtained images into 3D models and topographical maps to analyse the landscape before starting construction.
Increased worker security and safety
Health and safety are common concerns in construction sites, but drones significantly reduce the risks. For starters, jobs that often involve accessing hazardous areas are much safer when using remotely piloted aircraft. Drone-enabled aerial imaging protects surveyors from accidental falls, floods, and other dangers while gathering data on the ground.
Foremen can also use drones to monitor the job site and detect unsafe practices. Whether it’s poor installation or simply bad technique, drones provide dynamic coverage so users can proactively identify and prevent serious accidents.
Finally, monitoring drones are a great deterrent against theft, vandalism, and break-ins that may endanger workers’ lives.
Wide array of job site applications
Beyond surveys and inspections, drones improve how construction sites operate. They can be automated to capture images from the same angle to record time-lapse videos. Foremen and engineers can then check the footage to ensure the project is on track and monitor worker activity.
Drones may be equipped with thermal sensors to detect problematic areas in the job site, like moisture intrusion or hotspots. Additionally, heavy-lift drones are capable of transporting large equipment and materials by air. This is particularly helpful for large projects where tradies have to carry heavy loads over several storeys.
Drones are an economical investment for construction businesses. While prices for commercial drones range from $600 to $2,500, it’s usually offset by numerous cost-saving benefits.
Instead of designating squads to survey the area, one person with a drone can complete the task, reducing labour costs. Companies save on energy costs since they don’t need to use complex machinery to transport supplies and equipment. Also, drones reduce the time and money required to erect cranes and set up swing stages to access elevated areas.
The most commonly cited concern about drones is privacy. Since drones physically survey areas, nearby property owners are worried their activities may be monitored without their consent. To avoid invading people’s privacy, operators must check with local and state authorities before capturing images with drones.
Safety incidents can occur when using drones. In inexperienced hands, drones are prone to crashing into buildings, expensive objects, and pedestrians. Heavily populated areas may cause interference and connection drops between operator and drone, which can lead to accidents. Flying drones without ‘sense and avoid’ capabilities can increase the likelihood of mid-air collisions with other aircraft and birds. Even environmental factors such as wind and cloud cover may make the drone unsafe to fly.
The only way to mitigate these risks is to make sure operators have rigorous drone piloting training. Companies must also stay on top of weather forecasts and maintain line-of-sight when operating drones to avoid accidents.
In Australia, the commercial use of drones is governed by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). According to regulations, construction companies need to acquire licenses to fly remotely piloted aircraft. This means companies need to make significant investments in training to avoid expensive non-compliance penalties.
Other requirements include flying drones over private land and keeping drones a certain height and distance away from people. Despite these regulations, there are still many ambiguities regarding drone use for construction work. Misinformed firms may find themselves in violation of the law if they’re not constantly checking the latest regulation changes.
Even though there are considerable risks to implementing drones in construction, they can be mitigated with proper governance and training. What’s more, drones make sense for companies because they streamline what would otherwise be labour-intensive and expensive projects. Utilising drone technology sooner rather than later can put construction firms well ahead of the competition.
If you’re still unsure of drones, there are other must-have solutions to consider. Leading job management software WorkBuddy allows you to organise construction projects, scheduling, equipment and materials, and labour with ease. Contact us or book a free demo today to learn more about what we offer.