Drones are a great example of how technology and digital transformation are already changing the construction industry. The ability to operate them entirely remotely makes them particularly useful at tasks dangerous for human workers. Let’s take a look at how the construction industry is using this technology!
When you think of drones, there are usually 2 opposite views clashing:
The positive: “Drones overall will be more impactful than I think people recognise, in positive ways to help society” (Bill Gates)
The negative: “Drones are just another weapon, and they turn out to be a very effective weapon that puts no American troops at risk, and I don’t see why we shouldn’t use them against identified enemy targets” (Colin Powell)
With every invention, there will always be doubts about its safety, as well as the pros and cons of using it. In the 21 century, an age of incomparable progress, the age of digitalization where the internet is our second home, it is about time that we use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), most commonly named drones, to our advantage!
Dozens of industries use drones, but the fastest-growing commercial adopter is the construction industry. Drone use on job sites skyrocketed in 2017 - surging 239% and making construction the leading sector using this technology. No longer being limited as a product for commercial activities or entertainment usage, drones have started demonstrating numerous possibilities of how they can add business value, regardless of the industry.
The current situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic brought forward issues resulting from construction being the least digitized industry (right next to agriculture). With the increased Health & Safety precautions for the on-site activities and methods of working, the usage of drones, for example, for inspection purposes, is likely to increase. The Construction Industry must come up fast with solutions that will address the challenges and digitally transform the industry! Solutions that are feasible, scalable, and can allow remote-working, like f.ex. cloud-based construction management software, that leads companies to a safer, more efficient, and productive environment.
Looking at the digital transformation and the future of the construction industry, we can see that the usage of drones/UAVs will come in handy in various areas:
Reducing Worker Exposure
UAVs are able to inspect remote corners of even contaminated areas, without exposing themselves to any risk. They can be used to reach otherwise inaccessible locations or places that you would need additional equipment to get to. With the help of drones, you can enhance the safety of the construction sites and make sure that, in case of a pandemic, there will be no risks.
Drones are rapidly replacing traditional land-surveying methods. They reduce the labor and time involved in creating accurate surveys by eliminating the human errors that may appear. Construction Software solutions offer possibilities like capturing the grounds with an RGB camera (from different angles), tagging the image coordinates, and then rendering it with a photogrammetric software to create the geo-referenced model of the project area.
Machines are much more durable than the human body, can work almost without breaks, and will not get sick. Of course, they break down from time to time, but you can repair or replace them with ease. Thanks to all of that, they are extremely useful in working on multiple projects, delivering the data in real-time, thus cutting costs.
In 2012, the Japanese company Secom announced the world’s first autonomous drone for private security. Since then, the field has been booming with newer models and more ways in which drones can assist in protection. There are plenty of construction software solutions that will allow you to track your drones and capture live footage from it - thus protecting your on-site job from theft and vandalism acts.
Building Information Modelling (BIM)
The UAVs are remarkably fast at collecting high-resolution images that your team can input into a construction software solution that focuses on photogrammetry, producing 3D maps. This is perfect for the cloud-based construction management software that is BIM focused.
Drones have great potential for helping out the digital transformation of the construction industry. In its report on drones, Skies without limits, PwC predicts that the sector will contribute an extra £42 billion to the UK by 2030. But utilizing drone technology will come as a double-edged sword, as the risks are also high (like near misses with aircraft). The new framework must be put in place for these new technologies, as by missing out on using the UAVs in the industry, we could lose a lot! In the future, cloud-based construction management software solutions should also look into incorporating such new technologies as well. I can only say that I am looking towards the future with hope, seeing that the construction industry takes steps towards a digital revolution of its own!