OE Construction Corp

Are Drones the Next Evolution in the Construction Industry?

The use of drones in construction is growing at a fast rate, faster than anyone predicted.

“…construction drone usage has skyrocketed by 239 percent year over year, compared to 198 percent in mining and 172 percent in agriculture, according to a May report on commercial drone trends by DroneDeploy” (Source)

Only a few years ago, drones weren’t found much of anywhere outside of the realm of hobbyists looking to take their interests in remote control airplanes and helicopters to a new level. Today, they’re a ubiquitous tool throughout the construction industry.

And while they were an expensive addition to the site only a decade ago, with units ranging around $10,000 or more, drones today can cost anywhere from $400-$1000, with a couple of hundred a month in the cost of cloud based software to collect, transmit and analyze the data and images collected.

With this relatively low cost and given the high quality of data that is captured by a unit including photograph / video capability, the value is obvious. A construction site seen from ground level is an entirely different proposition than what can be seen from up high. In the past, aerial images were obtained with airplanes, at a serious cost and with less maneuverability and flexibility. After all, you can’t get a plane to hover over a specific spot in the distance to take multiple images but with a drone? That’s easily accomplished.

Ways drones are currently being used in construction

Land surveying — creating the high level view, quickly, more accurately and with less cost than more traditional ground level methods. 3D models are quickly created and any impacts to areas surrounding sites, including environmental ones, are discovered and managed.

Communication — because drones can provide real time data and images, they are practical for on-site communication, management and monitoring of the site and the workforce. With improved communication and workflow, it’s possible for companies to complete projects faster, which is a benefit to all involved.

Safety and security — monitoring a site allows two other advantages for the persons who are leveraging the data returned by the drone: security of a much larger area can be maintained more easily, reducing theft and vandalism concerns; and any safety issues are easily discerned before they become a problem, as well as allowing the surveying of areas that might not be safe for people to access.

Transportation — to a certain extent, drones can be used to transport goods or information from one part of the site to another, quickly and easily.

The future of drones in construction

Beyond photos or videos of sites, the equipment available for drones is getting more and more sophisticated. Thermal imaging and 3D model production are just two other ways that drones are being leveraged in the field right now.

And the future is bright for including drones in construction, with the wider availability of artificial intelligence and machine monitoring to both speed up and simplify the acquisition and analysis of site data, even venturing into the area of predictive maintenance of equipment. Automated construction sites, where drones control robot construction vehicles, aren’t an idea in science fiction.

“Japanese construction giant Komatsu will receive 1,000 aircraft to help survey and monitor their projects. There are also plans in place for these drones, known as the ‘Skycatch Explore1’ to control robotic construction vehicles. If successful, this could pave the way to a fully automated construction site.” (Source)

For the construction industry, the use of drones and other technology will necessitate the recruiting of a skilled workforce who can manage these new tools in the field. This represents an opportunity for people who are interested in technology to expand their range of career options to include construction.

While drones will never replace the essential skills of humans, they can be a cost effective addition to a construction site that will help companies cut costs, bid more efficiently and see a higher profit margin in ever more complex projects.

OE Construction began using drone technology a couple of years ago. One application is to verify job site conditions, another is to provide work progress videos for our customers. We have even used drones to provide site survey information on larger job sites: what used to take a day to complete can now be finished in two to three hours. The accuracy and the type of data that is compiled from drones can result in time savings and improved job site construction in the field.  Plus, it’s pretty cool to make a drone video!

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