UAS in Construction

From pre-construction project estimating through close-out and final punch list deliverables Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS/Drones) are changing the way progressive contractors are doing business. Since the FAA adopted part 107—the commercial UAS license—construction professionals have been early adopters of this nascent technology to assist in managing their construction projects.

Below we outline the most impactful advantages afforded by UAS technologies:

  • Safety – the ability to view large construction sites in high definition detail without the need to physically “walk” the entire site prevents employee exposure to a large variety of dangers, including, but not limited to:
    • Slips, trips, and falls due to uneven terrain
    • Impact by heavy construction vehicles and equipment
    • Open excavation hazards
    • Unstable or thixotropic materials
    • Stockpile measurement
    • Hazardous atmosphere and/or materials exposure
    • Biologic hazards (ticks, snakes, poisonous plants)
  • Volume Calculation – what typically is a “best educated guess” or a dangerous, costly and time-consuming surveying event to deliver material volumes to the stakeholders now can be done remotely, safely, more accurately and much faster than before. Large volumes of materials can be mapped in three-dimensional point clouds and rendered into digital terrain models that can then be accurately calculated into volumes. Deliverables are generally available the same day or following day allowing project managers actionable, billable data.
  • Estimating – Before the use of current high definition (HD) site images, estimators depended on unreliable and dated satellite images to attempt a review of existing site conditions to estimate the logistics of conducting operations and the associated costs. In addition, pre-bid site walks were conducted to allow estimators access to evaluate site conditions. In many cases these events expose the entire bidding team to unknown hazards unnecessarily. With HD images of the entire limits of disturbance, the estimator can now zoom in to centimeter level resolution and assess the complete site without any exposure to hazards.
  • Site Logistics:
    • Infrastructure layout
    • Haul roads
    • Utility layouts
    • Materials management areas
    This work can now be done remotely due to the “big picture” advantages delivered by UAS.
  • Reporting and Deliverables – With the advent of UAS data collection and processing, accurate and actionable reporting can now be completed in hours rather than days or even weeks giving the project team the ability to manage costs and billings much more quickly than ever before.

UAS data collection and processing are changing the way contractors do business in a sustainable, cost effective, and efficient manner. This will substantially lower construction costs over time and minimizes hazardous exposures to employees.