Drone Use in Construction – A Closer Look

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Artan Balaj, Project Manager at March Construction, provides some insights into the use of drones (UAVs) in construction. 


“Drones” or Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles

Unmanned Aircraft Systems are reportedly projected to market at $17 Billion by 2024. Commonly referred to as “Drones”, UAVs do not have any human piloting aboard. They consist of the vehicle (drone) in addition to a ground-based or stationary controller.   

Even though drones have several risks associated with their use, these are largely overshadowed by their positive features. The construction industry can account for many of those beneficial features for their use in capturing aerial footage of job sites and final shots of fully-constructed buildings.

Positives of Drone Use in Construction

  1. Helps schedule and track projects daily 

  2. Increases Productivity

  3. Allows for safe inspection of areas that might otherwise put humans in danger

  4. Can be used to survey the land

  5. Creates jobs

  6. Helps create 3D models

  7. Can do thermal imaging

  8. Forward-Looking-Infrared (FLIR) can be used for heat detection

  9. Can be used as a marketing tool by collecting data for analysis and creating content for company promotions

While building a large multi-story midrise, a drone can help in various ways.  A UAV can help a project along by inspecting hard-to-reach areas. Humans usually will have to set up fall protection in order to inspect areas of high altitude such as cell towers or bridges. A drone can speed this process up tremendously, save time, and money. 

Another positive impact that drones can have for a construction company is by creating content to be used in marketing their projects to owners and developers.  Creating high altitude images, videos, and even time-lapses may all result in a controlled, well organized, and timely-delivered project. This can be extremely helpful in promoting all companies involved.

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Negatives of Drone Use in Construction

  1. The need to follow tedious Federal Aerial Administration (FFA) guidelines

  2. Potential accidents with manned aircraft (planes, helicopters)

  3. High insurance premium requirements

  4. Special training needed in accordance with FFA

  5. Licenses and permits which are required to operate UAVs

  6. Airspace approvals are necessary

The construction industry can be impacted by all of these hurdles. For example, inspecting a large structure may be delayed by the approval of airspace rights, resulting in a hold on the continuation of the project.  Another example that can halt the building process is the high insurance premiums that come with the UAVs.  Budgeting this item may be underestimated, and may cause the project to delay until the funds have been accounted for. 

Small to medium construction agencies may also be at fences with the UAV drone approach due to the extensive preparation needed to operate one of these drones, such as the required FFA controller training. This training may come with high costs, lengthy processes, and constantly updated laws resulting in re-testing, etc. 

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UAVs can impact the construction industry in both negative and positive ways. The benefits of using UAVs overshadow the negative aspects; With more research, limitations, and coordination, the FFA guidelines will eventually be weakened, enabling the growing UAS industry to thrive.

I personally believe that UAVs are the future of imaging, scheduling, inspecting, and surveying—all major components of building a successful project.  This type of investment will help the construction industry take the next steps in safety and productivity. 

By Artan Balaj, Assistant Project Manager at March Construction