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The Role of Drones in Construction

How are Drones Used in the Construction Industry

Unmanned aerial vehicles are causing changes within many industries, including construction. Drones offer numerous uses that are appealing to project managers and anyone else overseeing construction sites, and arguably result in much more efficient workdays.

Beyond Human and Heavy Machinery Ability

One of the numerous benefits of using drones in construction, search and rescue operations, architecture, and more is that they can go where humans cannot. They also go where heavy machinery cannot on any given job site. Quadcopters zip around construction sites, taking inventory of progress without costing extra money. They easily highlight dangerous areas around the job site, show what projects are behind schedule, and allow managers to make changes and subsequently enjoy more efficient workdays. Workers might feel like they’re being watched constantly—but that’s because they are. Drones have raised a number of privacy issues as their popularity has increased, but it’s hard to argue with their ability to streamline construction processes. Those who support using drones on construction sites emphasize that workers have almost always been under a watchful eye, whether by a person or a camera. Drones might make workers feel a little strange at first, but their use isn’t about spying; it’s about determining what operations require improvement in order to dramatically enhance efficiency.

The Komatsu Example

International machinery maker Komatsu is a great example of a company leading the construction industry in regard to drones. The Japanese company announced the launch of Smart Construction last year, which includes a service platform entitled KomConnect. The platform connects equipment and workers to the cloud to improve overall efficiency via drones and other artificial intelligence-assisted controls designed for machinery operation. http://www.theverge.com/2015/10/13/9521453/skycatch-komatsu-drones-construction-autonomous-vehicles

Huge Money Saver

Aerial view of construction site from a Drone

Increasing construction site efficiency also results in serious monetary savings, as a single job site can cost a company millions of dollars. The ability to reduce the number of days it takes to complete a job because of drones is therefore very significant.  Imagine a drone being able to fly circles around a building images and video then using  software like  Autodesk ReCap to stitch all the images together to create a highly detailed and accurate 3D rendering of the building.   Before drones, this wasnt possible without the use of cranes and many, many man hours.  But now with a $500 drone, anyone with no experience anyone can create a map of anything.  Remember, construction sites don't necesarily want drones, they want answers and information and they want it fast.  Imagine using a drone to fly over your construction yard daily or a couple times a day to measure how much soil or dirt has been removed or placed

A Bigger Role

Drones might play an even bigger role in the construction industry over the next few years. In addition to streamlining processes, unmanned aerial vehicles could be utilized to transport modular units, and use those units to build structures. This idea was on display at Flight Assembled Architecture, an exhibition by architects Gramazio & Kholer and Raffaello d’Andrea. The demonstration used a small fleet of drones to build a 20-foot tower using 1,500 foam bricks. Drones were in communication with each other throughout construction and operated on a semi-autonomous level. The project was intended to show that larger drone implementation could result in the creation of a 2,000-foot vertical village with some 30,000 inhabitants.

Continuing Controversy

Quadcopters remain a controversial topic due to the privacy issue and their past (and present) military use. The Federal Aviation Administration outlines specific guidelines for “hobby” use, including keeping the drone within line of sight at all times and flying the quadcopter no more than 400 feet in the air. The FAA has faced backlash over these policies in terms of search and rescue operations, and drone use remains a hot topic. Despite these and similar concerns, many in the construction industry are plowing ahead in hopes of revolutionizing how a job site operates.
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