Drones have recently proven themselves in a variety of human activities, from public safety to utilities and even agriculture.
The advantage of modern drones is the ability to use a variety of sensors and instruments on board to collect data. Thus, drones provide companies with previously inaccessible tools to work with.
So how do you determine if a drone system is right for a particular company? To do so, you have to compare the capabilities of drone technology today and the challenges of that company. If the capabilities meet these challenges, then it is possible and necessary to implement drones and integrate them into production processes. With regard to the construction industry, there are already many examples proving that it is possible to fully integrate drones into the construction business.
The current global economy, still suffering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain disruptions, is a challenge for many industries, and construction is no exception. The tensions and challenges that have come to the fore in recent months call for innovative solutions, often involving the introduction of new technologies, including, perhaps, construction drones.
Specific “Pain Points” of the Construction Industry
In many cases, digitalization and data operations are not in place at all. Traditionally, construction has not belonged to the advanced industries in terms of digitalization, especially in accounting and planning.
However, such processes have begun, and following the general trend of collecting and using accurate data can improve cost effectiveness and efficiency, as paper-based processes are slower, less accurate, and can create compliance issues.
A shortage of highly skilled personnel. This, by the way, is one of the factors that is forcing the construction business to accelerate efficiency processes with its own resources. The shortage of labor and highly skilled personnel often forces companies to refuse to launch a number of projects.
There are many obstacles to working together. This problem complements a general lack of digital data used in production. That is, not only is there not enough data but even the data that is available often cannot be shared quickly and efficiently. Teams work in silos and don't try to implement shared data visibility.
These factors, combined with the financial constraints that have manifested themselves in the past few years, and a new focus on personal health and safety, have caused construction companies to think seriously about how to fundamentally change their production process and find more efficient ways to accomplish their tasks.
How Drone Technology is Affecting the Construction Industry
Access to drone technology could change the way companies manage their facilities. That is, drone systems can act as a central pillar of a new digital approach to construction. The effective use of the latest drone models can change work processes and help employees achieve their goals.
Introducing Drones in Construction Provides
- Improved planning: Creating a suitable plan for a construction project begins with a detailed inspection of the construction site. Doing work on the ground using traditional methods can be time-consuming.
It is quite time consuming and even dangerous at times. Much depends on the size and topography of the terrain. Topographic surveying by drone is safe and effective, it provides accurate information that can be used throughout the project.
- Detailed project management: The data collected by drones does not have to be limited to the initial topographic surveys. By using UAVs to collect real-time information as work progresses, managers can get accurate and up-to-date information about the project and then share that data with all departments to prevent errors due to uncoordinated work and lack of outside information from different departments.
- Reduced risk to personnel: Before the advent of drones, construction workers collected the necessary surveying data and checked job sites for hazards the traditional way, that is, on the ground, often on foot. Instead of forcing workers to climb to high points or navigate difficult terrain, companies can use drones to safely survey the terrain and monitor the situation.
One of the most striking aspects of integrating drones into the construction industry's production process is that new uses are constantly emerging. As new payload modules are invented, construction firms gain new perspectives and seek new – more complex or simply more interesting – projects. And it's all thanks to the use of drones and their expanding list of applications, from real-time job site surveillance to thermal scanning and more.
Newest Drone Technology
What would be the ideal drone for the construction industry? Obviously, such aircraft are not at all like amateur models, because the latter are much simpler and unassuming. In order to ensure high performance in various tasks on the job site, professional models must have many advanced technological features, from control tools and operator assistance to advanced payloads. Here are just a few of the technologies that are possible today in construction along with drones.
- Real-time kinematics (RTK)
To create finished structures and infrastructure that will stand the test of time, construction crews need centimeter-level accuracy when creating digital maps of work sites. Real-time kinematic (RTK) modules help professionals achieve that. This method usually involves an airborne module on a drone and a fixed base station. This provides more accurate data compared to the method that uses satellite information.
This method calculates the position of the base station, drone and satellites and creates geospatial data that is exported to special mapping software. RTK requires fewer ground points than other surveying methods. It relies on a single base station and automatically corrects errors during a drone flight.
Drones with an RTK module can also be equipped with post-processing kinematics (PPK). This is an alternative approach that has worked well in areas with difficult terrain and where there are problems with satellite signals.
Photogrammetry is one of the fairly popular methods that uses special technology to get an accurate representation of the terrain on a map. A drone shoots from the air and transmits the results to a special program, or this is done on the ground after shooting. Then several frames are “stitched” together, forming a single whole. Thus, it is possible to create digital 2D and 3D maps or high-resolution models and get the exact parameters of the objects of interest. Drones and specialized interoperable software together help make all these operations much faster, more efficient, and safer. As a result, specialists get very accurate models of construction sites and can regularly update them again with the help of a drone. Modern drones can be equipped with photogrammetric modules so sensitive that they can even be used to accurately measure the amount of material left in the stockpile based on the data points collected by the hardware.
Using drones to accurately measure material inventories is a new technology to improve the efficiency of companies. Aerial material inventory scanning provides accurate information to both specialists in the office and the team working in the field. All concerned know how much inventory they have left. With this real-time information, the manager knows in advance when and how much to order materials. And the drone helps do all that hard work with a minimum of manual labor.
In some cases, 3D modeling of the work site and measuring inventory can be done with the LiDAR module. The technology is known for more than a year and has been described in our reviews, so we will not dwell on it in detail.
It is believed that in comparison with photogrammetry LiDAR provides even a higher degree of detail, and this is useful for mapping relatively small objects. It should be noted that LiDAR modules tend to be heavier and more difficult to use. They also require more acquisition costs. However, as technology advances and new models of construction drones enter the market, this option becomes more attractive.
A quick assessment of drone's new role in construction
Complete drones include more than just the latest mapping, scanning, and sensor technology. These UAVs are also equipped with flight automation and aerial reconnaissance features to help operators and ensure safe and stable flights. Battery technology has also advanced in recent years, so pilots always know how much safe flight time they have left.
With these expanded capabilities, user training has become faster and easier in recent years. It is still important that employees are properly certified and trained on the hardware they are going to use, and organizations still require permission to launch drones in the airspace above the job site. However, the barrier to entry for drone use has gotten lower.
In addition, the availability of professionals such as Good Zone repair service, makes it easier to repair drones, which can get damaged quite often in the construction industry.
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