Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) or drones have proven to be a beneficial tool on construction sites. 100% of those surveyed that have used drones in construction or on a job site reported it to be a success and are very satisfied with both the experience and results. Current FAA regulations regarding drones in construction allow operation only after meeting certain safety and operational requirements. Regardless, the benefits of using drones in construction and other areas of the industry abound. Because of this, many users are engaging drones on their job sites.
Why Isn’t Everyone Using Drones In Construction?
Most construction professionals surveyed noted the #1 reason for holding back drone use was legal status by far, at 57%. Safety, cost and insurance issues were secondary reasons, in the 30% range each. Some mentioned unfamiliarity with the technology, while others expressed concerns with frivolous privacy lawsuits in California. Of course, working with a professional drone company can negate these issues.
Benefits and Outcomes of Drones in Construction
Those who previously hired a helicopter to take aerial photos are finding photos from drones to be much more affordable, higher quality and safer to obtain. The rest of the industry is finding a plethora of benefits as well. Everything ranging from aerial photography to the collection of data with infrared, laser and other sensors. This data can be used to produce 3D maps, thermal imaging for inspection, and point clouds. Those queried reported a number of unexpected side benefits too. Benefits such as improved communication with other team members, a boost to morale and just plain having fun. It’s clear that drones are providing a host of worthwhile benefits, and a few surprises. Overall, users are impressed with the low cost, quick turnaround and, most of all, the quality of the photos and videos captured.
Drone User Comments
Comments on Usage:
- “Highly efficient”
- “The use of waypoints and pre-programmed routes has multiple uses. The same route can be followed monthly, with the potential to substitute aerial time-lapse photography.”
- “Interior fly-thru found to be advantageous and unique”
Comments on Data, Quality and Cost:
- “Accurate land surveys”
- “Very low cost”
- “Better depth of photos from a very unique perspective”
- “Better photo quality and price with a quicker turnaround”
- “Clients love to see their project from this perspective”
- “Improves client relations”
Comments on Safety:
- “Pre-programmed flight via way-points is safer than manual control”
- “Manpower not required to access challenging or unsafe areas.”
- “No staff needed to inspect compromised roofs resulting in safer, faster roof inspections.”
Comments on Management Aspects:
- “It is helpful for a full understanding of the project’s progress and design issues in hard to see areas. As part of the architectural construction administration process, it helps us, the Architect, to give better conflict resolutions. It also improves sharing of information with project team members who are not always available to visit the site in person.”
- “Deterioration assessments in hard-to-reach places have proven invaluable for planning repairs.
- “One use of the drone allowed us to inspect a considerably damaged dock. Aerial imagery gave us a better scope of loss than had been first assessed. It also enabled us to see dock debris in the water from the air that was not possible from the ground.”
Additional Comments on Drones in Construction Experience:
- “Job site personnel get enthusiastic when drones are on the job. A morale booster.”
- “Great marketing tool. Captures fantastic footage for use on our social media sites”
- “Use to produce footage in support of community relations and engagement meetings. Particularly useful in those endeavors with environmentally sensitive elements.”
- “Caught issues that generally would not have be detected”
- “Well received by other team members”
- “Optimistic interaction with the public”
What is the Future of Drones in Construction?
The use of drones in construction is clearly compelling and becoming the wave of the future. In light of these findings construction professionals may want to start preparations now and build on the experiences of the survey respondents. Construction professionals who anticipate wanting to engage drone technology are encouraged to consider hiring a professional drone company.