Drone technology has been on the rise in the last decade and leading professionals have taken interest in the positive impact it presents to the construction industry. Areas such as Japan and the Middle East have increasingly gravitated towards drone usage in construction—especially during the last few years. With the US’ development booming, drones represent a broad range of opportunities to enhance construction project success.
The proliferation of drone technology has led to worldwide studies of applications on construction jobsites. Will drone technology replace the expertise of an experienced general contractor/construction manager? Not likely—but the optimization opportunity from drones in construction is certainly an exciting one.
MIT Technology Review expands on how drones are a full protection against workers “slacking off”—as it will document all progress. When video footage is collected, a 3D picture is generated, and that can be used directly with architectural planning software to understand detail and schedule tracking. It’s also interesting to consider the devil’s advocate view emphasizing the controversy of the heightened level of surveillance and lack of privacy from this new visibility.
An assistant professor in the department of civil engineering at the University of Illinois, Mani Golparvar-Fard, makes a call out that, “We highlight at-risk locations on a site, where the probability of having an issue is really high.” It can show, for example, that a particular structural element is behind schedule, perhaps because materials have not yet arrived. “We can understand why deviations are happening, and we can see where efficiency improvements are made,” Golparvar-Fard says.
Some of the most popular ideas drones present involve automated machinery, the collection of topographical data of construction sites, and the monitoring of construction sites throughout the different phases of a construction project.
Ground-based technology has been attempted for topography analysis, however this method proved ineffective. Having an overhead perspective on construction projects allows increased productivity, but also a clear view of what areas of the process can be tweaked for continuous improvement. It’s no secret that an issue on most construction projects is timeline compliance. Typically, a project will tend to slow in certain areas due to lack of worker productivity. On large construction projects like sports arenas, skyscrapers, and retail shopping malls with numerous operations going on at one time, drones can effectively supervise work in progress without requiring a human to monitor.
Similar to Komatsu of Japan, CAT wants to make drones’ ability to analyze landscapes from an aerial view more widely available in foreign countries. CAT has entered a partnership with an outside aerial data-collection specialist known as Redbird who develops UAV and drone products. With the partnership in place, Redbird plans to expand and deploy their drone data collection solutions to all of CAT’s customers.
In our age of continuous technological advancement, drones are undeniably a hot topic of discussion, drawing attention from many leading industries of the world. As the uses of this technology are fine-tuned in construction, there is a good shot of drone use becoming a common practice within companies of all sizes.
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