5 Practical Benefits of Drones in Construction

Kumar Wiratunga| January 29, 2019

Project managers, job superintendents and safety coordinators have more than enough on their hands when it comes to periodic inspections, jobsite progress monitoring and keeping everyone safe on the job while focusing on delivering their projects on-time and under budget. If a service or product could cost effectively eliminate or reduce the time devoted to daily, weekly and monthly tasks to support these efforts and reduce rework and risk, you’d expect everyone to jump at the opportunity to be more efficient, right?

Although when commercial drones can track and inspect a site faster, better and more accurately than a person ever could, surprisingly, many construction professionals inspect their sites the old fashioned way..

Inspections are not the only benefit of drones in construction. To drive greater awareness of this proven technology in construction, we explore five benefits of drones in construction.

Benefits of Drones #1: More Accurate Mapping Measurements, Fewer Boots on the Ground

Between collecting and processing the data, traditional mapping (surveying) methods take time, and they require human labor. Beginning with high res photo and video capture, a drone can do the job far more quickly at a much lower cost than traditional methods. But, equipped with a LiDAR sensor, drones can do the same or better surveying a job in 60 to 70 percent less time. Moreover, if a construction site is dangerous or difficult to survey, drones can do the job, eliminating any risk to people.

Since LiDAR works by transmitting a laser beam and measuring the return reflection and it’s situated on the drone—which is airborne—topography that would’ve been difficult to navigate on foot becomes a non-issue. Mapping (surveying) has been made much easier by making data collection simple and made available for 3D modeling and analysis.

Benefits of Drones #2: Reduce Safety Risks

The frequency and degree of cost overruns in the construction industry are well known. The industry has a serious issue with persistently low productivity, partly due to the industry’s slow adoption of new technology and lack of that technology being applied across all projects.

When managers are concerned with safety issues, the old way of doing things was to walk around the plant and take a look. It seems sensible, because a human pair of eyes and ears on the floor will be able to quickly recognize any problems with safety. But with the use of a drone and monitoring device, safety managers can see what is happening in real time, and which areas or issues need to be improved.

Construction managers are looking to prevent accidents and injuries with drones. Drones will help reduce the risk of worker injury as the photographs and videos help everyone see what’s going on at the site. Preventable issues like shallow excavations, unstable structures, equipment placements or worker safety become that much easier to anticipate. Seeking better ways to inspect job sites and identify potential hazards before they become dangerous, companies are increasingly turning to drones to improve efficiency and overall safety for workers. In the end, the result is a much safer construction site and less financial exposure to the project and the firm.

Benefits of Drones #3: Superior and More Cost-Effective Construction Marketing

Photos and videos do the best job of showcasing projects, and many contractors opt for progress photos or aerial pictures shot from helicopters or planes to make the most impact. These have their own drawbacks, such as quality, expense, flexibility, time, and safety. Drones, however, are affordable imaging platforms that address all those concerns. In addition to their use as surveying tools, drones can also work wonders for construction marketing projects. For example, a developer who wants to visually demonstrate how a proposed project will be laid out can use the unique, overhead view only a drone can capture, as shown in the image below:

aerial image of a construction site

Pictures sell. Your marketing will improve dramatically if you can add aerial photos to your website, brochures, and social media accounts. Owners are thrilled to see progress photos of their projects. This is a fantastic way to cost effectively share weekly or monthly progress reports with all the stakeholder.

Benefits of Drones #4: A More Practical Method to Monitor Construction Progress

When new technology comes along, it’s tempting to discount it as just another shiny new toy. But drone photography is a practical way to solve old problems, such as the challenge of monitoring construction progress.

It is challenging to capture the photos week after week with the same view, location or altitude. Drones solve these problems with easy to repeat flights each week so that your progress photos and reports always look consistent and capture the key information you need. Eliminating variances in this process drives productivity and lowers costs.

By identifying any phase of the project that is getting delayed and monitoring your job sites, you will have the project intelligence to proactively take steps that will reduce rework that will negatively impact cost and schedule. The more information you have at your fingertips, the more control you have over your project ultimately.

Benefits of Drones #5: Improved Communication

As anyone in the construction industry knows, communication is everything. With so many different types of contractors coming in and out, site condition changes, weather changes, and more, it becomes vital to keep an eye on the big picture. And drone photographs provide that big picture view.

The aerial view gives the team a different, valuable perspective. Supervisors can sit down with a high-resolution drone map and quickly catch or anticipate any site access issues, potential drainage problems, or threats to health and safety. Then they can more effectively communicate with their team about site issues and resolve them.

You should actively be considering drones and aerial imagery if you want to improve your project performance and keep the project cost and schedule on track. Drones can benefit every project site with tangible value from the very first flight onwards.

Want to Learn More About Drones in Construction?

To take an even deeper dive on the application of drones to any stage of a construction project, from pre-construction to project completion, you can watch the on-demand webcast, “Using Drones Across the Construction Lifecycle.”

In this webcast, you’ll hear about a full scope of practical use cases ranging from marketing, inspections, jobsite progress monitoring, site conditions, safety, environmental, and more.

Watch the webcast.

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About the author

Kumar Wiratunga Vice President of Technology Solutions, ARC

As Vice President of ARC Technology Solutions, Kumar drives technological innovation aimed at improving information management throughout the building lifecycle. With over 20 years of experience leading a variety of teams within ARC, Kumar ensures that our customers receive maximum value from our portfolio of service offerings.