Do it with Drones: The applications of UAVs in construction
You’ll probably be familiar with drones. These days you can easily buy them yourself in shops or online and control them with a tablet or smartphone. However, technically these aren’t ‘drones’, which refers specifically to unmanned and autonomous vehicles, flying independently of human control. Drone is often used as a catch phrase for any unmanned vehicle, however big or small, regardless of how it’s controlled. What we’re really talking about here is Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Small, lightweight UAVs fitted with cameras and operated by a person on the ground. Applications include news reporting, search and rescue, surveillance, delivering packages, or even just a cool way to film an event. Having a camera in the sky on a small, manoeuvrable platform is useful for all kinds of reasons, and UAVs can also help with construction projects. Here’s how.
Sometimes it’s necessary for engineers to inspect buildings in places which are quite difficult to access. As you might imagine, it isn’t quick or easy to do a thorough, close up inspection of the underside of a bridge, or the upper levels of a high-rise construction site. By flying a UAV with a high-spec camera, inspectors can get a detailed view of their subject in far less time than with traditional methods. UAVs also offer the potential for far-reaching construction site safety inspections, ensuring regulations are being followed and giving managers a powerful tool to monitor activity across large areas.
2. Site surveying
Not all UAVs are nimble, helicopter style devices, built for hovering and able to take close up photographs. Others function just like model aeroplanes, and are able to be programmed to follow a specific flight path. This can be incredibly useful for taking footage with a wider perspective of a site, and is far cheaper than having a manned helicopter, aeroplane, or even a satellite to do it for you. Still photographs can be stitched together to create a high resolution map of the site, and this can be an invaluable tool for planning and monitoring large scale construction projects.
3. Progress reports
On high rise projects in particular, providing clients pictures and video of the outside of a building for progress reports can be a costly prospect. Hiring a helicopter is much more expensive than using a small UAV! Using this new technology, it is possible to provide clients with excellent, detailed footage of difficult to reach places, assuring them that the project is proceeding to the required standard and on time. The dynamic footage capable of being captured by a UAV can also provide an excellent marketing tool to showcase a construction company’s expertise.
4. Joining the workforce
As unmanned vehicle technology improves, it’s not difficult to imagine that robots and UAVs will step into the construction site more firmly as a practical tool for the workers themselves. Larger, more powerful UAVs could one day be used to lift, transport, and position building materials without the need for cranes. On a smaller scale, they could be very useful for lifting tools up to workers at the top of tall construction sites. Robots will doubtlessly also be developed for undertaking some of the more dangerous jobs at ground level.
Technology is constantly being applied in new ways to improve our lives, and UAVs clearly have the potential to provide cheaper, more accessible and versatile solutions to various needs in the construction industry. But there’s no substitute for a skilled engineer! If you’d like to look at jobs in the construction industry, check out our available roles here.