Improving Your Workflow With Drones
Drones are quickly becoming a major disruptor of the construction industry. Nicholas Pilkington, Co-Founder and CTO of DroneDeploy, outlines the benefits drones lend to project management.
Chances are, you've heard of - or seen - an increase of drones being used at construction sites over the past five years. In fact, construction drone operators are one of the largest and fastest-growing communities within the commercial drone industry. Goldman Sachs estimates that the commercial drone market will reach $100 billion in the next five years, $11.2 billion of which is expected to be generated by the construction industry alone. And for good reason - drones enable project teams to collect high-resolution, highly accurate visual and elevation data in a way that is dramatically faster and less expensive than conventional alternatives. That data can then be easily shared in the form of maps and 3-D models, becoming a vital tool to improve communication and decision-making throughout the construction process.
Tilt Rock of Texas, a custom community general contractor, uses drones to map and manage large, custom home projects. Their customers look to Tilt Rock to help implement their own homeowner visions - and frequently request changes to house footprints, models and orientation. To prevent custom changes causing major project setbacks and delays,weekly drone fly-overs enable Tilt Rock project managers to produce high-resolution maps overlaid with utility, wastewater and communications plans. These maps, which can be easily viewed on mobile devices, allow the project manager to catch conflicts with design changes in real-time or even before they happen, and redirect them at minimum cost.
Not only can drones provide better, faster data, they can also help reduce safety risks on the job site by providing a safer alternative to activities like building facade inspection that would otherwise involve putting a human in a dangerous environment. That's why major Texas-based construction firm Rogers-O'Brien started using drones several years ago. Today, they also use drone mapping for site planning, volume measurements and quality assurance.
Ready to integrate drones into your construction business? Consider these tips for getting started, and you'll be reaping the benefits in no time:
- Plan your mission first. No two construction sites are the same, and neither are the hazards involved. The worst thing you can do is arrive to a site without a predetermined flight plan.
- Establish your goals. Know what you want to do with the data before you collect it, since this will determine the level of detail needed for mission success.
- Ensure FAA compliance. Be willing to deny services if unsafe or noncompliant operation is being asked of your organization.
- Enlist the help of real pilots. Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) flight overlaps with actual aviation. Brasfield & Gorrie enlisted the support of a licensed pilot in order to establish operational use of drones.
- Research before buying a UAS. Be alert and agile, as the technology is changing rapidly.
Where once construction companies had to choose between low-resolution, outdated satellite imagery, infrequent progress photos from manned aircraft or time-consuming, expensive ground-based surveys in order to capture a bird's eye view of a site, now they can hire or train a FAA-certified remote pilot to send a reasonably-priced drone into the sky at any point throughout a project's lifecycle, and automatically collect data. Once that data has been processed into a map or 3-D model, it can be shared and viewed from anywhere and easily integrated into existing construction workflows and software. More than ever, drones are making aerial data accessible to anyone involved in the project, at any time - helping to streamline communication and keep projects on track.