Drones, also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), are no longer just a hobbyist tech gadget. Many industries and commercial fields have started utilizing drones seeing the wide extent of information they are capable of providing. Construction industry is now proving to be one of the main adopters of drone technology as it provides a birds-eye view of the construction site, machinery and people. Drones has redefined the way buildings are designed and constructed by improving the design accuracy, quality, implementing personnel safety and simplifying the maintenance of the building.
Drones are able to assist project managers and supervisors to fulfill their roles much more effectively and also in identifying differences between as-designed plans and as-built plans. Recent technological innovations in drones are now capable of taking thermal photos along with add-ons like GPS.
Let’s take a look into some of the key applications of drones during different stages of the building life cycle.
Building Site Evaluation
Before purchasing the land, it is important for landowners to fully understand the terrain and the land distribution. The traditional land surveillance methods required a lot of labor, time and money. These methods are now being replaced by drones since they prove a bird’s eye view of the entire land. With the use of drones, the captured images can help land owners get a better understanding of the land before the investment.
Drones eliminate all of the human error involved in the land inspection with much higher accuracy and also save a lot of time required for collecting all the necessary data. The data acquired by the drones can be used by engineers to measure the land dimensions, elevation changes and also help with an estimate of the material volumes.
Drones can also be used for photogrammetry: creating 3D models by scanning existing structures. This is helpful especially in renovations and retrofitting, since it allows the creating of a detailed model with actual conditions.
BIM software can be used for importing the model and used as a reference. The data from drones can also be converted into virtual building models which will allow the clients to view the final outcome of renovations and retrofitting before the construction work even begins. This allows clients to also have a better understanding of spaces.
Supervision and Progress Checkups
One of the most common application of drones in building projects is to use them for inspection throughout the site construction lifespan, and also to check whether the schedule is being followed or not. For supervision, drone help project contractors with the following functions:
- Getting consistent construction images that can be compared throughout the progress by setting up weekly predetermined flights, and also for supervising construction quality.
- Monitoring the progress by overlaying the captured images onto the building designs and drawings so project owners can confirm that the work is moving according to the plan.
- The high-quality images can be compared to the actual building progress to identify any flaws like misplaced or misaligned elements.
Drones eliminate the human error aspect in building inspection and supervision with the ability of providing the project manager with high-quality images and necessary data from any viewpoint.
Maintenance and Damage Assessment
UAVs are useful not only during the construction process, but also after the completion. One of the important applications of UAVs post building completion is, maintenance planning. Also, drones coupled with as-built drawings, can be used for future renovations and upgrades. Some other situations where drones prove to be very useful are:
- Damage assessment during natural calamities like tornado or hurricane. Drones can fly around the site, identify the extent of damage caused and provide information like areas that need immediate attention.
- Drones equipped with thermal imaging can be used to detect hot air leakage and poorly insulated areas in the building site.
Health and Safety
Traditional construction methods involved a lot of labor for inspections and supervisions. This included inspecting construction areas that would expose workers to risks like accident and injury at heights. At such times, project owners can use drones to gather all the necessary information without exposing surveyors to injury and with a higher level of accuracy as well. UAVs can be extremely helpful in emergency situations like COVID-19 outbreak by limiting the need for personnel. This allows project managers to implement the recommended safety precautions at all times and ensuring the project runs as smoothly as possible.