Drones fulfill many roles in the construction sphere, everything from giving a basic overhead view of the jobsite to maintaining track of materials, machinery and people. Contractors use them from everything from comparing as-planned construction projects to as-built projects, as well as optimizing the grade of the terrain and recording images and videos. Their usefulness can be increased with thermal cameras, mapping tools, and GPS units.
Sometimes called UAVS (unmanned aerial vehicles) they can be autonomous and self-navigating, but more often they are controlled on the ground by a worker with a controller and a joystick.
“Drones have become the go-to tool for construction firms to track, map, survey, inspect, and manage worksites more efficiently and safely,” said Dan Burton, founder of DroneBase, a drone pilot network that provides support for construction companies. “Through aerial imagery and data, builders can map projects, report progress updates and gain insights through advanced analytics to make better, faster and more reliable decisions.”
Denver-based PCL Construction has utilized drones for more than three years on nearly all of its major projects to improve jobsite communication, perform volumetric analysis, overlay design documents with installed work for visual verification, verify grades and provide historical documentation.
"The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words has never been more true," Bill Bennington, PCL's national quality manager said.
A good case study is the Microsoft Redmond Campus renovation project, where drones are feeding data into more than 100 models that contain almost 3 million 3D components.