Drones are revolutionizing the construction industry, in fact, out of all the major industries that are adopting drone technology, the construction industry is by far the largest. Drones are used in many areas of construction, from mapping and surveying to capturing data for cut and fill jobs. One area where drones are of huge help is in construction inspections. Drones are being used to inspect roads and highways, check for roof damage, detect pipelines leaks, or inspect wind turbines. Thanks to new technologies, drones are being used more often in the field of construction inspection.
The Benefits Of Using Drones For Construction Inspection
Inspections of buildings and infrastructure are usually required by law so that they are kept safe and maintained in good condition.
Many types of inspection are dangerous and time-consuming, for example, inspecting high-rise buildings or cable lines on railway tracks or powerlines on electricity grids.
However, for maintenance purposes, they will need to be inspected on a regular basis and any issues that are detected will have to be repaired or resolved as soon as possible.
Regularly inspecting buildings and infrastructure can be expensive, especially if it requires lots of staff, equipment and buildings/infrastructure/machinery being shut down. Also, not all inspections lead to any maintenance requirements, so, the disruptions that are normally caused by inspections may not be financially feasible on a regular basis.
However, with drone technology, many of these issues are mitigated or completely eliminated.
Drones are easy to deploy and do not require a team to operate them, companies will not need to shut down a whole section of a building that needs inspecting and there will be hardly any noticeable disruptions.
Of course, the main benefit of using drones for inspecting buildings and infrastructure is because they are much safer and faster than traditional methods.
According to the HSE (the UK’s Health & Safety Dept), the most likely cause of serious injury or death in a workplace is from a great height and this is also the case in the USA as shown in the OSHA statistics.
Accidents and death will not be totally eliminated in the workplace but reducing them through the use of smart technology like drones is possible.
With drones, you get access to advanced remote sensing technology that will allow anyone, who is a trained/certified drone pilot, to inspect any type of building or infrastructure and not put themselves in any danger.
Drones allow companies to inspect their assets much faster and more regularly, this will help them identify and resolve any issues much quicker whilst reducing injuries/deaths and saving on costs.
When talking about costs, we are not just including the cost of the inspection but also things like insurance, putting up temporary structures and costs associated with asset downtime. All these added together will save any company a lot of money and improve their overall bottom line.
Another benefit of drones is their design and manoeuvrability, this allows them to be used to inspect hard to reach areas. Whether it’s inspecting inside structures that may be unstable or areas that have hazardous materials, drones make it much easier to inspect hard reach to areas.
Then there is the quality of data that can be captured by drones, all commercial drones come equipped with high-quality sensors. Whether it’s an RGB or infrared camera or a LiDAR sensor, each payload will capture highly detailed images/videos that will highlight any issues.
This data can be easily shared with staff and clients and analysed in more detail through drone photogrammetry software like Pix4D or Drone Deploy.
Best Drones For Construction Inspection
The best drones for construction are ones that are versatile and can be used for many construction-related tasks and not just for inspection purposes. However, for this article, we shall only list drones that are suitable for building and infrastructure inspection and not for things like mapping and site security, which are the other areas in which drone technology is being used for constriction projects.
When it comes to choosing a drone for inspecting buildings, infrastructure, powerlines, etc, there are several factors that will determine which drone or drones you or the company/client you represent should invest in.
For example, some drones can be operated in extreme weather conditions, the Matrice 300 can be flown in heavy rain, windy and cold weather, so it’s suitable for inspection in any type of environment.
However, a drone such as the DJI Phantom 4 Pro, is not an all-weather drone and can only be flown in dry weather conditions, although it does hold up well in windy conditions.
Then there is the issue of choosing the right sensor for an inspection job, in construction, usually, a high-resolution camera, an infrared sensor or a LiDAR sensor will be good enough for different inspections.
Drones like the Matrice 300 can carry multiple payloads including DJI’s own L1 LiDAR sensor and their range of thermal imaging cameras.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but the drones below are more than capable of delivering high-quality data for inspection jobs.
DJI Matrice Series
There are a number of enterprise-level drones in the DJI Matrice series, the most advanced is the Matrice 300 RTK. It’s an all-weather drone that can be operated in heavy rain, snow and windy conditions and comes with advanced features powered by artificial intelligence. The drone comes with dual vision and time of flight sensors on all sides, providing the drone with advanced obstacle sensing and avoidance capabilities. Its equipped with multiple redundancy systems, so even if one system fails, there are always backups during critical missions. The remote controller comes with a large screen that will allow operators to view highly detailed images and videos without the need of a smartphone or tablet. The drone comes with a maximum flight time of 55 minutes and a transmission range of 15km. It can carry multiple payloads which include most of DJI’s advanced sensors.
The other Matrice drones are the 200, 210 and 210 RTK, they are not as advanced as the Matrice 200 RTK, but they are more than capable of carrying out inspection operations for different types of assets. The drones have a robust design and come with an IP43 rating, making it suitable to fly in the rain. All the drones come with a 3-way obstacle avoidance system and come equipped with an anti-collision beacon. They all have autonomous flight modes and are compatible with different types of payloads including third-party payloads via the DJI Skyport connector. The Matrice 210 and 210 RTK can carry two payloads with a maximum weight limit of 1.34kg for the 210 and 1.23kg for the RTK version. The drones have a maximum flight time of around 34 minutes and a control range of 8km.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro RTK
One of the most popular prosumer drones from DJI, the Phantom 4 Pro RTK is a well-built drone that can be operated in windy conditions, although, unlike the Matrice drones, it cannot be flown in wet weather. The drone is equipped with a 1-inch 20MP sensor and 4k camera that can capture images and videos with a higher dynamic range. Thanks to the RTK and TimeSync module, the drone can perform automated inspections in difficult environments via its intelligent flight modes and obstacle avoidance system. The camera is stabilised by a 3-axis gimbal and the drone has a maximum flight time of 30 minutes and a range of 10km.
DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced
An exceptional drone for all types of inspections thanks to its dual-camera module and advanced flight system, the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced is equipped with a high-resolution RGB camera that can capture images in 48MP and records videos in 4k. It also has a thermal imaging camera that has a 12µm Pixel Pitch and captures thermal imaging data in the 8-14µm spectral band. The RGB camera has 32× zoom and the thermal camera has 16× zoom, allowing operators to capture close up images from a safe distance. Other features the drone comes with includes 30 minutes of flight time, an omnidirectional obstacle avoidance system and a 10km control range.
Autel Evo 2 Dual 640T
This drone from Autel has a dual camera that consists of an RGB camera with a 1/2-inch sensor that is capable of capturing images in 48MP and recording videos in 8k. The camera has 8× digital zoom (4× lossless) and records 4k videos with a higher dynamic range of colours. It also has a thermal imaging camera with a 640×512 resolution and a 30Hz refresh rate. The camera comes with a picture in picture mode which allows operators to overlay thermal image data over an RGB image for a more detailed analysis of the area being inspected. The drone comes with a remote controller that has a large OLED display via which you can access a range of temperature analysis tools. The drone comes with an obstacle avoidance system, intelligent flight modes and 38 minutes of flight time.
MicroDrones are a German-based drone company that manufacture a wide range of commercial drones that are suitable for multiple industrial applications including inspections of buildings and infrastructure. All of their drones come with a LiDAR sensor or high-resolution RGB camera, a few come of them come with a combination of both. One of their latest drones mdLiDAR1000LR, this robust drone comes with a Velodyne Ultra-PUCK LiDAR sensor and 26MP RGB camera. Micro Drones have a robust design that allows them to be operated in all types of weather and comes with their own set of software applications for flight control and data analysis.
DJI Inspire 2
One of the best prosumer drones, the DJI Inspire 2 is a well-engineered drone that has been designed for photographers/videographers but is more than suitable for inspection jobs thanks to the fact that it can be attached with different types of cameras. The drone can be attached with the Zenmuse X7 full-frame camera that has 14 stops of dynamic range and can capture high-resolution images in 24MP. The camera is stabilised by an advanced 3-axis gimbal for smoother images and videos. The drone comes with multiple redundancy systems for safer flying and also comes equipped with an obstacle avoidance system and dual battery slots. It has an overall flight time of 27 minutes and a range of 7km.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro/Zoom
The DJI Mavic 2 comes in two versions, the Pro and Zoom, the main difference between the two drones is their camera. The Mavic Pro is equipped with a 1-inch Hasselblad camera that captures 20MP images and 4k videos and has an adjustable aperture. The Mavic 2 Zoom comes with a 1/2.3-inch sensor and can capture 48MP super-resolution images and 4k videos. Both drones come with intelligent flight modes, an obstacle avoidance system,31 minutes of flight time and a 10km transmission range.
Parrot Anafi Thermal
The Parrot Anafi Thermal is a powerful drone that has been specifically designed for commercial applications. It is a beautifully designed and powerful drone that comes equipped with dual RGB and thermal imaging cameras. The RGB camera captures stunning 4K video and 21MP still images while the thermal imaging camera comes with a FLIR sensor and has a resolution of 160×120. This is one of the lightest commercial drones and is suitable for a range of commercial applications including drone’s inspections, mapping and search and rescue operations. It has a flight time of 26 minutes, a control range of 4km and comes with smart flight modes.
Autel Evo 2 Pro
The Autel Evo Pro is a fantastic professional drone that comes with an HD camera that can capture high-resolution images in 20MP and record 6k video with a high dynamic range of colours. The camera has 8× zoom and 3× lossless zoom that will allow drone operators to inspect company assets from a safe distance but not compromise on the data quality. The drone comes with 5- way obstacle avoidance system, multiple intelligent flight modes and 40 minutes of flight time.
We hope you enjoyed our blog about the benefits of using drone technology for construction inspections. Drones have a lot of uses and are revolutionising the way many industries operate. You can use drones to get a 3D map of your construction site, get high-definition aerial footage and, of course, do inspections.
hi Minhaj, I really enjoyed your site
I’m looking for a drone that in the construction industry can record data at any stage of construction and compare it to map data using powerful support software.
For example, in the foundation stage, record the executed rebars and compare them with the map by means of the software and announce the changes that have occurred.
Can you guide us?
There are a lot of drones that can be used in construction projects, a couple of popular ones are the DJI Phantom 4 RTK and the Wingtra One fixed-wing drone. I recommend you check out the following links for more information on how these drones can help in construction projects.
Construction Planning & Design With DJI Phantom 4 RTK
Using the Wingtra One Fixed-wing drone for construction projects