How drone technology has revitalised the earthmoving industry  

A recent membership network report revealed that drone technology is expected to uplift the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the UK’s construction and manufacturing industries by £8.6bn by 2030. Richard Clement, Deputy General Manager at software solution specialist Smart Construction, discusses how drone technology has revitalised the earth moving industry.  

Drone technology within the earthmoving industry 

The earthmoving industry has seen significant advancement in digital solutions, particularly across drone technology. The use of drones within the earth moving sector has revolutionised various aspects of projects, offering immense benefits to companies and contractors spanning conducting topographic mapping, producing land surveys, improving safety, and enabling remote monitoring.  

What are the benefits of drone technology for site processes in the earthmoving industry? 

Drone technology has transformed every step within the earth moving process from project inception, to excavating, to placing and through to project close. Drones are becoming increasingly important in surveying and reproducing accurate measurements due to their accessibility and accuracy.  

The point of any measured survey is to obtain an accurate record of a site at a defined moment in time. This provides the base information that will be used to plan and manage the site. Surveying drones are equipped with high-resolution cameras and LiDAR sensors that facilitate precise mapping, topographical analysis, and site planning.  

Increased productivity and saved time 

Project management and thorough inspections are pivotal in the successful completion of earth moving jobs. Traditionally, the inspection process usually involves one or more personnel overseeing fieldwork, which is time consuming and requires several safety measures. Drone inspection, when paired with smart software technology, provides the same level of scrutiny but is safer and less time consuming.  

By capturing detailed aerial imagery and pairing with a solution that can generate comprehensive 3D models, site managers are able to make informed decisions and ensure resources and materials are not only utilised but delivered at the correct stage to the corresponding location, ultimately saving staff hours and money by ensuring a project is delivered on time.  

Reducing costs 

The use of drone technology also enables proactive maintenance planning and allows site managers to identify potential issues early on, which prevents costly repairs later down the line. 

By boosting productivity using the data from drones to condense information on labour hours and productivity rates, are in turn used to estimate the cost to complete activities as well as the projects as a whole. This technology enables site managers to develop accurate project schedules and actively monitor progress. By flagging potential site issues or delays ahead of time means a site manager can react much sooner, ensuring delivery stays on time and costs do not increase.  

Why businesses should expand into drone technology 

Drone technology has strengthened the earthmoving industry making it safer, quicker, and more accurate to conduct surveying. Site managers and workers can identify potential issues before they arise and make revisions prior to any expensive mistakes.  

Despite the exponential growth in drone technology, broader adoption faces a significant barrier due to the specialised expertise required for data processing. Smart Construction Edge addresses this challenge by offering a simplified approach to drone data processing, eliminating the need for specialised knowledge. This enables individuals, regardless of technical background, to operate drones and obtain up-to-date terrain point clouds effortlessly, on a weekly or even daily basis, depending on their needs. Such capabilities makes Edge an ideal solution for integration into the Smart Construction Dashboard workflow, providing site managers with valuable insights into the entire jobsite terrain on a regular basis.  

Recently, Smart Construction’s work with HB Golf, a specialist construction company in the Czech Republic, has improved the businesses outputs by delivering this key data and information in an easy-to-use format. Technology Manager Chris Horn explains: “This technology has prevented costly mistakes and saved time from potential reworks.”  

Prior to working with Smart Construction experts, Chris found that a huge portion of his time was spent on surveying. A task he’s now able to delegate to site managers thanks to the digital solutions in place, his team uses drone data pulled through to the Dashboard system to get an accurate overview of the site and all survey data.  

Chris has now been able to upskill the existing workforce on the site, freeing up his time as well as helping their skill set become more versatile.  

How will drone technology impact the future of the earthmoving industry? 

With the increasing complexity of earthmoving projects and the growth across the industry, drone usage will continue to rise. The more up-to-date survey data can be, the more effective it is.  

Drone technology renews and improves the historic cycle of surveying; however its real power is unlocked when paired with software and hardware that can interpret data and create something to improve decision making, boost productivity and cut costs – such as Dashboard and Edge by Smart Construction.  

As drone technology continues to evolve, it will continue to play an increasingly pivotal role in the digital transformation of the industry, fostering innovation, and driving the uptake of smart technology.  

By Richard Clement  

Smart Construction is a digital transformation strategy created by Komatsu together with Sony Semiconductors, NTT Communication and Nomura Research Institute under the entity EARTHBRAIN Limited. These four organisations are known for their significant contributions to delivering the greatest innovation leaps to their industries.