How UAVs Are Being Used in Construction Projects


Photo #169; Drone SmartX

Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are being used for different reasons in the construction industry. As a tool that improves communication, safety, and marketing, drones can offer many advantages when used in some applications on a construction project capturing real-time images from the field. Drones are machines operated by remote control, usually a small flying machine, but they can also be ground-based.​

How Drones Can Be Used in Construction Projects

Drones can offer unprecedented aerial images of a project site, much more accurate and realistic than aerial photographs. Many construction sites are using drones, and we will explain the legal risk and challenges in subsequent paragraphs, for surveying, mapping and to create 3D renderings of a project. Not only as surveying tools, but drones are also now used as a marketing tool, as they can record the actual progress and conditions of a project during a specific moment, presenting those images to potential clients, investors, and/or lending institutions.

Drones Used as Inspection Tools

Some other professionals are taking advantages of drones as they can be used to reach locations, somewhat inaccessible or to places that would normally require additional equipment in order to reach a specific point. Drones can be used to inspect bridges and other structures that have been built over large water bodies or they can be a substitute for cranes in superstructures. Drones have the potential to become as important a tool to the industry as any piece of yellow iron.

The Legal Aspects of Using Drones

There have been some challenges to used drones regularly on construction sites as they can be classified as "hobby" equipment as long as the UAV weighs less than 4.4 pounds and travels less than 400 feet (120 meters). If that's the case, the drone will no require a permit from the Federal Aviation Administration.

However, recent Congress activity and the Drone Act require that UAV shall be integrated into the National Airspace System by September 2015. Right now, the FAA prohibits the use of drones for commercial use without a written permission from the FAA. Even further, insurance experts are still analyzing whether drones can be covered under their general liability policies or not.

Drones Impact on Construction Sites

Drones have been used in many situations to keep a record of the linear foot of material being installed, as a way to maintain a record of the equipment being used in conjunction with GPS tools. Also, some companies have been used drones to enhance safety at construction sites, as they can have real-time data on safety violations or situations that might have a negative impact during the construction process.

Komatsu, the construction equipment maker, has been developing a program to overcome a shortage of construction workers. The drones will scan job sites from the air and send images to computers to build three-dimensional models of the terrain.

Komatsu’s unmanned bulldozers and excavators would then use those models to carry out design plans, digging holes and moving earth. As the machinery dig holes and level land, they will also use onboard sensors to collect data on how the site’s layout is changing.

Other Drones Benefits

When drones are used in construction site, costs can be reduced and a safer environment can also be established. Drones will provide assistance during roof inspections, during emergency assessments, for insurance surveys and post-disaster relief. Drones can also be used to complete post-blast surveys, and even as a marketing tool for real estate agents.

Drones FAA Permits

Drones or UAV's need to have special permits by the FAA in order to fly them over certain areas. There are several companies that have received permits from the Federal Aviation Administration and that can help with your specific needs for construction projects. These companies can offer a wide variety of services so you won't need to invest in any additional training or equipment.