The Top 10 Benefits of Using Drones in Construction

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Ryan Holmes
Multivista Program Director – UAS

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), otherwise known as drones, are the vehicle component in a broader system known as small-unmanned-aircraft-systems (sUAS), or remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS).  The drone in the system carries various sensors like cameras, LiDAR, thermal and other sensor payloads to capture useful and sometimes critical data from perspectives that only a vehicle operating unconstrained in 3D space is capable of.

The deliverables enabled from these systems provide many advantages for construction such as boosting build efficiency, enhancing and ensuring safety protocols are being met, and improvements in overall accuracy of construction processes. While some of the advantages enabled by drones are relatively obvious (like being able to take aerial photos and videos), there are others you will want to consider.

In this post, we’ll cover the top 10 benefits of using drones in construction, from improving safety to streamlining progress documentation and beyond.

A bird’s-eye view of construction drone benefits

Chances are, no matter which particular aspects of your construction process you’re hoping to improve, drones can help you achieve your goals and boost your ROI. Let’s take a moment to review ten key benefits to be aware of:

1. Improved safety & reduce liability

Construction sites can be dangerous–that’s no surprise–and safety is a critical element of every project. Any technology that mitigates health and safety risks for staff, visitors, and bystanders is worth pursuing. 

Drone footage can be used to look for the proper installation and presence of railings, safety barriers, lighting, and fences across all structures, property boundaries, haul routes, active public roads and walkways. Structural details and conditions of building envelopes can also be captured and monitored whether they are decades old, new, or are  works in progress. In addition to serving the need to assess and inspect buildings for maintenance, repair, and building requirements, this service aids in reducing liability by protecting people, property, and vegetation.

2. Streamlined progress documentation

When multiple project partners require continual updates on construction progress, drones provide an efficient and effective way to document the details you need. Because they can capture so much information in so little time, a project manager can use this near-real-time data for planning, estimating, and organizing teams throughout construction. 

Today’s drones are designed to perform regular, automated data capture, which gives project partners access to up-to-date visual and measurable records of construction progress. Drones’ capability to operate unconstrained in 3D space makes them one of the most powerful and capable documentation tools available. Modern drone systems collect high-value data with relative ease and, in combination with a good online data platform, this has become the best way to collect data to document, communicate, and memorialize the exterior progress on a job site.

3. More advanced visualization

If one picture is worth a thousand words, then advanced forms of visualization enabled through drone-captured data are worth millions. When using today’s best UAV/Drone systems with highly accurate GPS, and cameras made specifically for mapping with photogrammetry, 3D models can be created to provide millions of measurable data points of a given jobsite and trusted for a myriad of calculations to make better informed decisions.

These 3D models enable linear, area, and volume measurements for countless use cases on a property.  Measure a fence line, hardscapes, a slab area, and determine where to locate a pump truck or crane so that it can reach all the areas necessary for its intended use.  Overlay plans to understand where items are located underground or where the extents of new builds are going and how they will interact with what is on site already.  The surfaces and other file deliverables that come from these services can be used for tracking earthwork across an entire site and used in many other 3rd party software packages to provide answers for nearly any site related questions you might have.

Additionally, by combining 3D models created from drone images or drone LiDAR scans with terrestrial 3D laser scanning technology, construction professionals can create accurate 3D models with more detail, and can provide virtual walkthroughs that partners can access off-site. Depending on the role and experience your project teams and partners have with construction, more advanced visualizations can help translate technical issues into easily understood information for all audiences. Better information, and including more minds in the decision making process, makes for better overall results and more satisfied clients and contractors.

4. Ability to cover large areas and process information quickly

Particularly with large construction sites, traditional surveying methods can be incredibly labor intensive, time consuming, and are often dangerous. When you are repeating the process on a regular basis to document as-built conditions over the life of a project, this time investment, and the associated risks really add up. Although UAV services are not a replacement for traditional surveys, they can augment the information of a site with deliverables that go well beyond what was once available and provide near real-time information.

Compared to traditional surveys performed by humans, drones can capture millions of data points on a given project to analyze, versus, tens, or hundreds of points — plus provide the imagery from unique angles and perspectives. UAV’s can do this repeatedly and in a fraction of the time needed to retread those steps on foot.

Within hours this data can be quickly turned around and processed into deliverables for communicating with project teams, trades, and partners.

5. Enhanced site security

By arming you with a literal bird’s-eye view of the situation on the ground, drones can add to the security and insurance measures on your site. Drone monitoring can help you to identify security risks, such as locating possible ingress and egress locations, checking for missing or damaged fencing, noting areas with poor lighting, and identifying changes before they’re noticed by anyone on the ground. 

For example, drones can help with locating equipment and materials and determining if and when things go missing. We have even seen sites where unauthorized dumping took place and UAVs were used to measure the deposited materials to assess removal costs and determine accountability.  Drone imagery and deliverables enable both insights and analysis, plus they allow more people to access these tools and data which only adds to the overall value.

6. Improved asset and material tracking

Drones can be used to monitor the movement and location of equipment, tools, and materials on a construction site. When used in conjunction with specialized software, they can also determine the quantities of various items, materials and track earth movement. UAV services can provide fast solutions to daily challenges on a job site and provide great tools for carrying out assessments, making for more accurate estimating and scheduling. Drone-collected data can also be very effective in resolving potential disputes before they escalate and provide valuable evidence when legal disputes do arise.

7. Supplement on-site auditing

Much like traditional site surveys, traditional safety audits require significant time and labor to complete. Drone surveys can supplement safety audits by confirming that OSHA-compliant safety markers are in place and providing partners with the opportunity to flag any on-site safety concerns from the aerial captured data. While UAVs can help supplement the audit process, they work best in collaboration with human partners who can verify and spot-check on the ground to ensure compliance.

8. Easy access to documentation

Depending on your software setup, drone-captured images can be incredibly easy to access, and from wherever you are in the world. For example, drone images and videos captured by Multivista are uploaded into our cloud-based platform that can then be viewed via password protected access by an unlimited number of project team members, from anywhere with an internet connection. This easy access means fewer site visits are required and empowers a much wider range of partners to find ways to create value from the documentation data.

It is worth noting that with the ease of capturing so much data in a short period of time, drone-acquired data is notorious for becoming ‘data heavy’ very quickly. This can serve to silo the information for only a few users, as sharing these large amounts of information in different formats makes it impossible to extract true value unless you have a cloud-based service(s) to handle and distribute the content more efficiently.

9. Repeatable processes

With pre-programmed drone flights and geolocation technology, you can ensure that the same areas of your site are documented from the same angles and at regular intervals, allowing for easy comparison and monitoring of progress over time. Drones can be set to fly predetermined routes created using GPS and other tools, ensuring consistent capture of information over and over again, even if local visual landmarks shift.

10. Better resource utilization

Leveraging drones can enhance efficiency throughout your workflows, enabling your team to reinvest time saved into other important work; rather than spending hours or days on manual surveys and audits, you can gather data and insights more efficiently to make timely decisions and move on to other aspects of your project. This benefit is even greater if you work with an experienced third-party service provider who can perform all the necessary processes for you and capture the right data at the right time.

Drone services and the resulting deliverables are useful, if not imperative to stay relevant in all types of project coordination now. Drone captured video, stills, maps, and spherical panoramas are just some of the drone deliverables that are great for use across all team aspects from building logistics, marketing, communications, and direct project workflows.

Take your efficiency to new heights

Drone services provide invaluable tools for every type of building asset whether it’s in construction, planning, redevelopment, or for existing structures that need to be monitored and assessed for both safety and regular maintenance. From eliminating the risks associated with manual surveys to providing efficient coverage of large areas within short periods of time, drones themselves make documentation processes easier. And, when combined with the right technology, drone-captured images and data can help you create — and facilitate easy stakeholder access to — invaluable documentation materials.

Even with all these benefits and more, the amount and cost of equipment, certifications, insurance and training required can make some construction companies hesitant to take the leap into drone-powered documentation.

Luckily, working with a third-party provider can take the burden off your team’s shoulders. Multivista offers a full suite of professional construction drone services, including photo, video, panoramas, UAV mapping services, and more. We handle the entire process, so you can focus on moving your project forward.

What can drone services do for your construction business? Request a demo.

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