Propelling construction

Asif Gillani takes a look at the use of drones and UAVs in the construction sector

Over the past few years we’ve seen new, innovative ways drones are being used to enhance different aspects of our lives, alongside promising future applications. From capturing breathtaking photos and videos from new heights to offering a whole new way of delivering online shopping to our doorstep, and even the potential launch of a revolutionary new taxi service – the exciting future of drones and UAVs is always evolving.

For the construction industry, this potential has progressed more quickly, and professionals are already enjoying the benefits that drone technology has to offer – ones that initially felt like a distant prospect. Drones have opened new doors to technology that, historically, would have been hugely expensive and time consuming to work with, helping businesses of all sizes to minimise costs, and offer ways of understanding a project in entirely new and insightful ways. A recent survey by ProDroneWorx revealed that a third of construction firms, surveyors, architects and engineers questioned were already using UAV technology, and almost all of the remaining 70 per cent were planning to implement the technology in their processes in the near future.

We’ve seen drones being used across all areas of the construction industry for a few years now, mainly for inspection purposes, stemming from hobbyists putting the kit to the test in a range of environments. Over the past 12 months or so, there have been new developments of consumer drone technologies with a professional audience in mind – making way for a new ‘prosumer’ market.

These combine the sophisticated technology and features of expensive, top-ofthe- range industry equipment and software with easy to pilot consumer drones, creating an affordable, efficient and commercially beneficial solution. This has made the spectacle of drones and their diverse abilities more accessible to construction professionals and SMEs.

Business benefits
For construction workers, it’s not a question of whether to invest in drones or not. That much is obvious. Drones are cheaper and faster than surveyors, they can track a site’s progress as frequently as the operator wishes and they’re able to shoot and share data remotely from a construction site, or even in hardto- reach places, at the touch of a button. It’s the difference between sending a whole team between sites (potentially hundreds of miles) and sending one team member and a drone to capture the data and share it instantly with the team back in the office. This, of course, streamlines activity and is much more efficient for the project manager.

In 2015, the Crossrail project in London structured a programme to explore and capture pioneering ideas – including the use of drones in construction, and how the technology can be beneficial for the industry. The team discovered that drones were able to perform close examinations of high risk areas, speedy overviews of large sites, health and safety inspections, assessments of high structures, site planning and capture 360-degree panorama shots. The use cases, the benefits, the efficiency and the affordability has only grown in the three years since the project began, and the accessibility has expanded from major government funded projects such as Crossrail, to the likes of construction SMEs and independent construction bodies across the country.

Accurate information
At Parrot, we have ensured these types of drones are more accessible, more efficient and more affordable, opening up the opportunity to smaller businesses, and not just those with large budgets. We launched the Parrot Professional range globally in 2017 to provide a complete and multi-purpose decision-making solution for professionals across the construction industries, as well as farmers and agriculturalists. The range includes Parrot Bebop-Pro Thermal, an all-inone quadcopter thermal imaging solution specifically designed for small construction businesses, thermal inspection professionals and public safety services, and Parrot Bebop-Pro 3D Modelling, an all-in-one drone-based 3D modelling solution for real estate and building professionals. The new additions build on Parrot’s consumer drones, demonstrating manoeuvrability, robustness and ease-of-piloting, and incorporate precision sensors and software for SMEs and independents.

The advantages of investing in these professional drones in the construction industry are clear for both larger construction bodies as well as SMEs. The Parrot Bebop-Pro Thermal for instance, can identify thermal irregularities emitting from a building to help understand specifically where and why a building is losing heat, which can result in a grant from the government through a number of schemes. The drone has the ability to live stream, record videos and take pictures of buildings, roofs, solar panels or specific areas in visual or thermal image mode to quickly and safely provide highly accurate information and data of thermal loss or thermal activity. The drone is not only beneficial to the construction industry, but can also assist firefighters during a blaze, or after a fire to survey building damage or structural weaknesses.

The Parrot Bebop-Pro 3D Modelling drone can undertake a multitude of tasks such as producing easy to interpret visual results, delivering regular site progression status updates to help teams understand how well a site is progressing, comparing data using the as-designed vs as-built function to compare the initial site plans to the physical building outcome and introduces a whole new health and safety element – it’s no longer necessary for construction workers to spend the majority of their days crawling across potentially dangerous roofs or structurally damaged buildings, drones can achieve the same images and accurate measurements from a safe distance.

As the industry’s growth continues apace, I’m confident that professionals across all areas will be introduced to more and more innovative technologies and solutions designed to specifically streamline process, enhance results and efficiencies, and – in short – make lives easier. It’s an exciting time for the industry, and there are sophisticated technologies out there that can make a real difference, and do not come with a budget breaking price tag. It’s important for business owners to understand the solutions that are available for them and how they can truly benefit them and their business.

Asif Gillani is Parrot’s Regional Director Northern Europe, Middle East, Africa & India. Parrot is a French-headquartered, wireless technology manufacturer and creator of world leading drones. The company launched in 1994 and, last year, announced a brand-new division of its business; Parrot Professional – providing new drone-based solutions for industries including property and real estate, agriculture and public services.

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