UAVs Impact on the Construction Industry

DJI is making useful tools for operational managers

Working in the construction industry can be a very exciting and rewarding experience.

However, as a former construction engineer and project superintendent, I know that it can be stressful and highly complicated. There’s no doubt the widespread introduction of UAVs (drones) in the construction industry will alleviate some of those hazardous and nerve-racking situations.

Take the following case-study: This project entailed the construction of several islands with interconnected causeways. It involved a lot of heavy equipment and personnel spread out over several kilometers with 24/7 operations. Operating such a work site is highly complicated and requires a lot of planning and discipline. Photos had to be taken with a helicopter, a costly and time-consuming process. Future project sites will benefit from such pictures using the power of UAVs for several reasons.

Drones give the project and operational managers a tool to get an instant overview of the daily situation. Using orthomosiac software, such as Pix4D allows managers to create actuals to overlay on the project AutoCAD drawings. This is a powerful way to coordinate and adjust project planning. It will give a better understanding of the daily progress and the location of equipment, but more importantly, it permits management to critically consider logistic routes, machine movement and potential hazards.

The combination of a birdseye view with onsite information creates a tool that can provide instant feedback. Higher management in construction is not only valuable for their experience, they are also a scarce resource. Using the strategy described above will make excellent use of that experience without costing precious time.

There are several hardware options available from DJI, the leader in drone technology, that are excellent in combination with the appropriate software package.

DJI manufactures 3 airframes that suit construction firms looking to monitor progress at a worksite – the Inspire 1, Matrice 100 and Matrice 600. These three airframes are compatible with a variety of payloads; from the survey-grade quality Zenmuse X5 to a variety of third party sensors that can be mounted onto these airframes. The cost of these platforms is negligible in the construction industry, especially for larger projects. The benefits, however, can be enormous. Such a rig will allow more efficient planning (reducing cost) and provide a safer, more-controlled workplace, which is valued by the client, the contractor and the workers on site.

Especially valuable for the marine construction industry, there is the Zenmuse XT, a thermal camera compatible with the above-mentioned products. Working in remote locations at night can be very risky. If anyone were to fall overboard, deploying a thermal drone for search & rescue can potentially save lives. I fell overboard during nightly operations several years ago. As I’m writing this, you know I made it out alive, but it was a life-threating situation. There’s no doubt if the situation had been worse, that one of the most-efficient tools for locating me would have been a drone with thermal capabilities.

Construction is a multibillion-dollar global industry that places high value on safety and efficiency. Several larger manufacturers, such as Caterpillar and Komatsu have already embraced UAV technology. Now, it’s time for the contractors to exploit the power of drones.

In fact, I am convinced that several years from now, having a drone on a construction project will be mandatory.

About the Author

Bart Van der Voort is part of the DJI team and focuses on introducing DJI's innovative technology to businesses throughout the EMEA region. Bart studied industrial engineering and achieved an MBA from INSEAD. Prior to joining DJI, Bart held positions in the marine construction industry.



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