According to data from drone software company DroneDeploy and Allied Market Research, the biggest rise in the use of drone technology will be in the construction industry. Allied Market Research estimates that by the year 2027, drones in the construction industry will be worth around $11 billion. The benefits of drones in the construction industry are numerous and significant, from acquiring surveying data faster to reducing health and safety risks at the worksite, drone technology is starting to play a vital role in the way a construction site is managed.
Uses Of Drones In Construction
Drones are used in construction projects for a variety of reasons, from initial mapping and surveying of the construction site to volumetric measurements for cut and fill jobs, tracking progress, inspection, surveillance and site security.
Drones can capture accurate geospatial image data thanks to GPS correctional technology such as RTK and PPK, these images can then be processed through photogrammetry software for different types of 2D maps and 3D models.
These digital assets can be obtained on a regular basis for analysis of the area before, during and after construction which will allow companies to closely monitor the project and spot any issues early and rectify them as soon as possible. This will help keep projects on track, eliminate costly mistakes and save money and improve ROI.
The benefits of drones in construction are numerous, with drones, companies can collect aerial data quickly without compromising data accuracy and share this information with all interested parties, thus improving communication as well. Drones provide a safer way to inspect unstable buildings, survey areas of a construction site that are hard to access by land and improve productivity.
Benefits Of Using Drones In the Construction Industry
1. Acquire Data Faster
Before any kind of work can begin on a construction site, the area will need to be surveyed and mapped thoroughly so that engineers and contractors can properly analyse the ground and surrounding areas for planning and decision making. Obtaining detailed mapping and surveying data will help in every phase of the construction project, however, traditional methods of capturing surveying data with the use of land-based equipment is a long and time-consuming process. Not to mention that it may also be risky because of the rough and difficult terrain.
With drones, the process of capturing data for surveys and maps is much easier, and faster and does not compromise data integrity. It’s also safer as drone pilots will not need to be within the confines of a busy construction site and can remotely operate the drone and capture survey data in areas that are hard to reach through traditional land-based surveying methods. Operating drones is also not very hard and so even inexperienced individuals with the right training can carry out drone surveys in the construction industry.
2. Improved Safety For Workers
Construction sites are a busy environment, and they can be dangerous with scaffolding, unsafe buildings, heavy machinery, and hazardous materials lying around. Sending in staff around dangerous areas for tasks like inspection and monitoring are a risk to health is not a viable option and may violate health and safety regulations. Drones provide a safer and more efficient option as drone pilots will be a safe distance away and can complete any kind of inspection or monitoring job without putting risking their health and safety.
3. Progression Monitoring
Drones are easily deployable and capture aerial data faster than any other methods being currently used. One of the benefits of the quickly deployable nature of drones is that companies can track what is happening on a construction site frequently and monitor the progress of their projects. With drones, companies can monitor their projects on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis and evaluate the data to see whether the project is on schedule or falling behind and make data-driven decisions on how to correct any setbacks and get back on track. The fast nature of data acquisition via drones also allows important information to be shared quickly among interested parties so that everyone is on the same page with regard to the progress of the project.
When it comes to inspecting any kind of construction work, whether it be high-rise buildings, bridges, rooftops, cable lines, etc, drones offer a much safer and quicker method than the usual method of having workers physically inspect these sites. Drones are equipped with professional-grade cameras that can capture high-resolution images and come with zooming technology. Using drones for inspection will help detect any issues with regards to any repairs that may need to be carried out and quickly fix the problem before it gets worse. Another useful feature of inspecting with drones is that many of them are compatible with infrared cameras which can help detect any abnormal heat signatures and quickly find out what is causing it and resolve the issue as soon as possible.
5. Improved Security & Surveillance
Using drones for surveillance to secure a construction site and keep staff safe and reduce theft and vandalism is a relatively new way to improve construction site security. Drones with infrared cameras are especially useful as they can be used to detect unusual heat signatures that may lead to a fire and with high-resolution cameras that have zooming technology, drones will be able to track unauthorised individuals entering the premises. This is a relatively new way to manage site security and one downside is that the battery life for drones will need to improve substantially for them to stay up in the air for long periods of time to be an effective all-round security solution.
6. Save Costs & Improve ROI
While the initial investment into drone technology will be expensive, the long-term benefits in terms of ROI far outweigh the initial costs. One of the main uses of drones in construction is for acquiring data for surveying and mapping, this process can take days or weeks if it is a large area of land and the longer a task takes to complete the more it costs the company. This is also true for inspections where you would need staff to manually inspect sites to find any kind of issues which also takes time and a lot of manpower and this translates to more costs for the company. With the use of drones, many of these tasks can be carried out at the fraction of the time whilst saving money on manpower and equipment. These savings will eventually show up as a net positive in the company’s financial accounts.
Images and videos from drones are great for marketing purposes and construction companies can use them to highlight progress reports to clients. Sweeping aerial shots of newly developed houses will make for great marketing material whether they are used for brochures, social media postings, or on company websites.
Best Drones For Construction
As we have seen above, drones can be used in a number of different ways that will help streamline many construction operations. So, what are the best drones for use in the construction industry? There is no straightforward answer to this question, it will depend on a lot of factors such as the budget, scale of the project and what tasks will be completed with the use of drones.
Having said that, there are a number of drones that stand out from the rest and companies that are thinking of running a drone program for their construction projects should consider investing in them.
First of all, you will have to consider whether to get a fixed-wing drone or a multi-copter drone, there are more options for the latter, while fixed-wing drones are more expensive with fewer options.
For fixed-wing drones, a couple of options stand out from the rest, the first one is the WingtraOne drone.
The WingtraOne is actually a VTOL drone, it has fixed wings but can take off and land vertically, which traditional fixed-wing drones cannot do. The WingtraOne drone is a great choice for large-scale construction projects thanks to its industry-leading flight time of 55 minutes. The drone can cover hundreds of acres of land in a day and comes with a 42MP full-frame Sony camera that will provide highly detailed aerial images. The drone comes with a PPK GNSS receiver that can deliver sub-centimetre level accuracy and with its IP67 and military-grade rating, it can be flown in harsh weather conditions.
The other option for a fixed-wing drone is SenseFly’s eBee X, this is another good choice for large scale construction projects. The standard flight time is 55 minutes but this can be extended to 90 minutes via their endurance extension plan. The drone is compatible with multiple cameras which includes the Aeria X camera with its APS-C 24MP sensor and the S.O.D.A 3D mapping camera. It has a PPK/RTK GNSS receiver for survey-grade accuracy and depending on its payload, weighs less than 2kg, which is very light for a commercial drone.
As for multi-copter drones, there are a number of options and a lot of them are from DJI, who are the leading drone company in the world.
One of the most popular drones for commercial purposes is the DJI Phantom 4 RTK, the drone comes with many advanced features which include its internal RTK GNSS receiver that can achieve centimetre level accuracy from low altitude. The camera has a 1-inch sensor and captures 20MP images for detailed aerial images that can be transformed into 2D orthomosaic maps and 3D models. The drone has omnidirectional obstacle avoidance sensors for safer flying and has a flight time of 30 minutes.
The DJI Matrice 300 RTK is one of their most advanced commercial drones and comes with a maximum flight time of 55 minutes, which makes it a good multi-copter for large-scale construction projects. It’s a well-built drone with a rugged design that allows it to be operated in all kinds of weather conditions thanks to its IP45 rating. It comes with multiple payload capabilities and is compatible with DJI’s new L1 LiDAR sensor.
The Matrice 210 RTK has similar features to its successor, it’s compatible with multiple payloads and has a maximum flight time of 33 minutes. The drone comes with an RTK GNSS module, obstacle avoidance system and dual anti-collision beacons.
Other drones from DJI’s range that are suitable for commercial use in the construction industry include the Mavic 2 Enterprise which comes with a dual camera. One is an RGB camera that has a 1/2.3 inch sensor and captures still images in 12MP and the other is a thermal camera with an uncooled microbolometer resistor. There is also the Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom and the Inspire 2, all of which come with high-quality cameras that can be sued for things like inspections and mapping.
A good alternative to DJI drones is MicroDrones, this is a company that manufactures its own range of commercial drones. Their drones are equipped with either LiDAR sensors or a professional camera like the Sony XR1R II and they all come with PPK and RTK GNSS receivers. The average flight time of each of their drones is around 40 minutes and they are built to be operated in the harshest of weather conditions. Microdrones offer a full mapping solution, from survey equipment which includes the drone and payload to flight planning and data processing through their own drone mapping software.
Other multi-copter drones that are suitable for commercial use include the Autel Evo 2 RTK series. The Parrot Anafi dual-camera drone, which is more suitable for inspection thanks to its thermal camera and the Skydio 2 drone.
The use of drones in the construction industry is growing, however, as it is a relatively new technology, companies that are looking to invest in drones will have to make a decision on whether to start their own internal drone program or outsource it to a drone service provider. What is clear though is those companies that are using drones to survey and map their construction sites have seen significant improvement to their operational efficiency and also helped improve worksite safety and reduce costs. It made the process of capturing aerial data much easier and faster which allows for improved decision making, rectify issues as soon as they are identified, and help keep projects on schedule.