The role of drones in construction is new and something which can bring revolution to the construction world. Earlier all the work had to be executed manually starting from drawing to building houses or detecting structural defects that arise from time to time. All these have been replaced by technology to a large extent. Calculations like building estimates needed extensive time in calculating with the help of a pen, paper, and calculator but now software is available that reduces time and effort for doing cumbersome calculations. Similarly, drones provide various advantages that are beneficial for saving time and labor work. Not only this, accuracy in work increases, and better perception of the ongoing work is facilitated. All the pros and cons along with additional data are discussed here.
Fig 1: Application of drone in construction industry
Courtesy: The Denver Post
Why the need of drones in constructions?
The construction sector has embraced technology in work at a faster pace. Studies show that about 239% increase in revenue and efficiency was observed when drones were used in constructions. Drone photography has taken place in this sector in earlier times too but using drones other than photography is new. Some of the reasons behind the use of drones are –
- It provides a large-scale view especially in the case of complex projects, where monitoring the whole site at once is difficult. It can cover a large area in a few minutes and transmit accurate images for a better grasp of construction activities.
- Quick inspection of tools and equipment can be done with the help of drones. It can be operated remotely and even lasers can be fitted on it for screening equipment that is hidden on the site. i.e., facilitating easy tracking.
- It can help to monitor any criminal activity that is going on at the site. Many reports have been filed stating that the theft of costly equipment has become common as at sites the tracking is lost in the course of work. Therefore, theft of such valuable equipment can be prevented.
- About 39% of fatalities regarding workers have been reported worldwide. Sometimes workers have to reach such places on the site which can be dangerous. This may involve falling heavy objects on them, getting injured by falling from a height, and so on. This is where drones, become effective by taking all the necessary measurements, readings, and other such activities. Even, any loose in harness can be detected by it. Moreover, in case any worker is not concerned with his safety like not wearing safety gears properly, then in such case drones are a very powerful tool in signaling any danger it detects.
- It reduces manpower which saves a lot of costs. Charges on labor may sometimes prove to be costly as they possess certain skills and experience. This work can be replaced by drones. Even, in some places, it has been seen that drones have the capacity to carry raw materials from one place to another. This is effective when transportation cost is more in areas of construction like hilly areas or areas which are difficult to reach.
- Surveys can be done through these drones. This process will be quicker and easier compared to the conventional methods where surveyors had to stand at one place in the sun for a long time for taking measurements. This old process is lengthy and time-consuming. Replacing this old process with the new one has proved to be effective and in places like Dubai, it is very popular.
Fig 2: Drones in BIM
Courtesy: Drone U
Some of the cons of drones
It is no surprising fact that a thing can have both advantages as well as disadvantages. Some of the key points are –
- Certain skills are required to operate drones just like operating construction equipment. This involves training in the flight path, key controls, and basics of computer information which may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
- Along skills comes experience. An amateur cannot fly the drone properly and might crash it into someone else’s territory. Thus, an experienced person can fly it effortlessly in no time.
- Weather conditions are one important criterion that can affect the functionality of the drone. It is mostly non-operable in windy and rainy weather conditions as it can damage various parts of it. It resembles a plane that is difficult to fly in unbalanced weather conditions. Hence, it is more favorable in sunny weather.
- Drones are costly. It takes a lot of money for construction companies to buy drones that have proper and advanced functionality that can perform the necessary operations on site. Repairing a drone is also quite expensive and it is the main concern in the construction industry where money plays a key role in deciding various factors.
- It can create unemployment problems leaving many people jobless. In this modern era, robots are replacing the human which has become one of the main criteria in unemployment.
- Also, drones have less efficiency compared to human efforts. So, a drone is likely to get heated up in a short time which can be a problem in sites where the whole work revolves around it.
Drones are the future of the construction industry. Apart from having certain limitations, it has been proved to be excellent in operation in hot climatic areas where adverse weathers are not major problems. Also, certain modifications are going on regarding drones which need time to test as quick results cannot be expected because of its sophisticated technology used. Wingtra is one such company making drones that provide advanced features in the field for better operation. Other companies like DJI, Yuneec, UVify, Hubsan, Parrot, and many more. Among these, DJI is the largest manufacturer of drones and it produces 70% of the drones globally. Cost is the main criteria that govern the construction industry and so many companies are making efforts to make affordable drones.
Although challenges are emerging for making a drone that is efficient and economic, many other problems are needed to be tackled like employment problems, mobility problems, etc. which can be troublesome in the future. It has tremendous advantages like mapping, surveying easiness, and so on and all these are not to be overlooked just for the sake of a few disadvantages. Thus, drones can even be more helpful in life-saving and many more important works for the progress of a nation.
- Geospatial World, “Using drones in the construction world”- https://www.geospatialworld.net/blogs/using-drones-in-the-construction-industry/
- Wingtra, “Why and how to use drones in construction and infrastructre”- https://wingtra.com/drone-mapping-applications/drones-in-construction-and-infrastructure/
- Big Rentz, “6 Profitable Ways Drones in Construction Are Changing Projects”- https://www.bigrentz.com/blog/drones-construction
- The balance small business, “6 Ways Drones Are Affecting the Construction Industry” – https://www.thebalancesmb.com/drones-affecting-construction-industry-845293
Kanwarjot Singh is the founder of Civil Engineering Portal, a leading civil engineering website which has been awarded as the best online publication by CIDC. He did his BE civil from Thapar University, Patiala and has been working on this website with his team of Civil Engineers.
If you have a query, you can ask a question here.