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.
7 Benefits Of Using Drones In the Construction Industry
#1) Acquire Survey & Mapping 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 rough and difficult terrain.
With drones, the process of capturing data for surveys and maps is much easier, 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 regards 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 The Construction Industry
So, what kind of drones are suitable for the construction industry? There are a lot of options on the market, and it will depend on what they will be used for.
For example, for surveying and mapping jobs, the best type of drones are ones equipped with a high-end camera, come with GPS correctional technology like PPK/RTK, and have a long flight time. Having these features will allow drones to capture highly detailed images that are embedded with accurate geolocation data that can be processed by drone photogrammetry software into 2D maps and 3D models.
These drones are more expensive, but they are worth considering if accuracy is very important when it comes to producing maps and 3D representation of the construction site.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro RTK
Probably the most popular for photogrammetry, the Phantom 4 Pro RTK comes with a 1-inch 20MP CMOS sensor and GNSS RTK module for better accuracy. The camera can capture high-resolution images that are tagged with accurate location data thanks to its real-time kinematic module. Flight time is around 30 minutes, which is not the best, especially if the area to be surveyed and mapped is very large.
DJI Matrice 300 RTK
This is a more robust drone than the Phantom 4 Pro and has been built to be flown in the harshest of weather. It has an IP45 rating and comes with advanced redundancy systems so that flight missions are not compromised even if a system fails. This drone is perfect for both surveys and inspection as it is compatible with multiple payloads which includes the new Zenmuse P1 camera and L1 LiDAR sensor. Depending on the payload, the drone has a maximum flight time of 55 minutes which is one of the best for a multirotor drone and comes with an omnidirectional obstacle avoidance system.
WingtraOne VTOL Drone
A fixed-wing drone that comes with vertical lift-off and landing capability and the best option for larger mapping and surveying jobs. The drone is compatible with multiple cameras including the full-frame Sony RX1R II with a 42MP sensor that can achieve sub-centimeter GSD and horizontal accuracy of 1cm. The drone is built to military-grade standard and has an IP68 rating, it can be flown in extreme weather conditions and still deliver exceptional image data. The drone has a maximum flight time of 59 minutes (subject to the type of camera it carries) and has a range of around 10km.
The eBee X from SenseFly has been around a while, it’s a robust fixed-wing drone that comes with some exceptional features such as its integrated PPK/RTK module for survey-grade accuracy and the 90 minutes of flight time it can achieve subject to payload capacity and weather conditions. The drone has a wide range of camera options that includes RGB Aeria X with its APS-C sensor and 24MP resolution, the S.O.D.A 3D mapping camera and the SenseFly Duet T that has a dual RGB and thermal imaging camera.
The above drones are all-around drones that are suitable for surveying, mapping, inspection, and surveillance. They are the best choice of drones that will allow you to capture data for high-accuracy maps and 3D models.
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.