5D BIM and Drones to Usher in Construction 2.0

5D BIM and drones are going to be the superconductors of efficiency for the construction industry. The ‘Global Construction 2030’ report suggests that the output from construction would grow 85% to $15.5 trillion globally by 2030. This growth would primarily be led by the United States, China and India.

The Indian construction market for the same is set to grow at twice the rate as compared to China. The nation’s urban population would grow to 165 million (2030). This growth lays the infrastructure for economic and lifestyle improvements. However, it’s important the efficiency within these construction projects be sustained over their timelines. Failing to do so would see a lot of capital being drained, straining the economy in general and the construction industry in particular.

About 20% of large construction projects get delayed globally leading to exceeded budgets of over 80% (average). Such significant losses set-up entry barriers for newer players and, subsequently, see a consolidation and monopolization wave across key developmental regions.

As it has always been, the right and accessible tech-intervention at the right time has always improved boosted efficiency and set a level playing field for all. Drones – they are key to disrupting the current construction industry and setting it back on track to meet its 2030 forecasts.

There have been tech-applications in construction, however due to lack of interconnectivity and related steep learning curves have made them unapproachable. Drones now have fixed all this by bringing higher accuracy, deeper insights, quicker responses, better operational control and total progress transparency to the construction projects.

Here are the top 5 disruptive applications of drones in the construction sector:

Pre-planning: Getting surveying and mapping right with drones

Every project begins with a vision. This vision is often aided by detailed terrain (site) analytics. Traditionally architects or engineers use Ground Control Points (GCP) to improve the accuracy of the geo-spatial mapping. This ‘intermediate’ tech-intervention is cost-heavy in terms of time, resource and equipment.

Small and micro drones take the range and applications of these GCPs and boost it multi-fold. They enable Post-Processing Kinematic (PPK) or Real-time Kinematic (RTK) for quicker and more detailed analytics. This saves up around 70-80% of the cost of initial surveying and mapping of the area while increasing the quality of output.

ideaForge drones have higher endurance and better flight control than most in their class. They help utilizing higher-grade imaging equipment, even two at a time (dual payloads) for more actionable insights. These drones can even be coupled with sub-surface detection radars and magnetometers for a detailed elevation and contour model + spotting and detecting subsurface deposits. This has immense help with protecting pre-existing structures, simplifying drilling processes and streamlining the intended supply chain (and labour acquisition).

Drones also help set-up or decipher the aesthetical stand-point of the proposed project. This means that the drone can capture HD ‘perspective’ images showing how the view would be from, say, the 18th floor.

Accurate pre-planning leads to higher control over following operations.

5D BIM and Drones: Future-proofing your designs

Drones conduct detailed surveys of the site creating precise 3D Building Information Models (BIM) and Digital Elevation Models (DEM). The entire post-processing of information is done a much more streamlined manner eliminating possible discrepancies and miscalculations. Drones gather live imaging information and transmit it as it is captured. The data is immediately processed and perfected for reporting. The accuracy is enhanced with the use of orthomosaic imagery and photogrammetry.

The simplicity and efficiency brought in with drone based surveying and mapping has led to the standardization of 5-dimensional BIM. This 5D BIM has the potential to instinctively and implicitly suggesting the perfect forecasts and projections based on dynamic decision making.

The 5D BIM incorporates the geo-spatial 3D BIM and interweaves the construction scheduling (4th dimension) and the associated budget or cost (5th dimension) for the operational activities. This means the engineers and architects can visually analyse the latent impact of, perhaps changing a facilities’ location from one point to another.

Drones have helped bringing in the real dynamism required to make this 5D BIM consistent and accurate across potential scenarios and use cases.

Quality Control: Drone-led surveillance for higher efficiency

What’s planning worth without the results? Random situational or environmental (unforeseen) occurrences create gaps between the planning (estimation) and ground realities. These gaps are primarily responsible for cost-escalation and project delays.

It’s important to stay on top of all ‘unaccounted for’ changes across the project development process. Manual supervision and surveillance is restrictive and dangerous to the perpetrators. They often must access potentially dangerous points using scaffolding, ropes, etc.

Automated drone surveillance helps keep the project’s process in check without putting supervisory lives at risk. The operator must simply key-in the parameters or location points for the drones to survey. The drone would take flight and enable deep-analytics of every aspect of ongoing operations.

Productivity, forecasting and lean operational processes with drones

Other reasons for cost-escalations or delays are productivity and supply chain inefficiencies. Construction is a labour and resource intensive industry. This means that fluctuations in these elements affect the overall project substantially. The industry in itself has a multiplier effect of 1.8 to 2, which means that it has forward and backward integration impacts on multiple other industries.

It’s important to control the productivity and efficiency of a construction project. This can be done with the use of drones. Drones have a natural resource-multiplier application where they help increase the range and information gathering by a factor of 8 or 10x. This means that the labour can be directed to the right processes and location with before-hand info gathered using drones.

Drones can access hard-to-reach areas to inspect installations in detail. Any discrepancy or anomaly can be spotted live much before it becomes a bottleneck for the operations. This change detection is more relevant in terms of stockpile estimations giving a tight control over all inputs and raw materials on-site at any time. The entire current estimation processes can be completed within hours using drones, speeding up the procurement and usage of the same.

Communication and transparency: Drone-led consistency and accountability

The construction project is like a high-stakes and deeply-impactful orchestra. There are many stakeholders invested in the project at any time, in terms of work, time or money. Direct and simplified communication between them is very important. Such open communication lines and transparency help ease anxiety and open up the potential for further investment of time, work and money.

Such open communication has always been an issue in construction as often the reports aren’t timely or easily interpretable. Drone have totally changed how this information is consumed across channels. Now key stakeholders like city planners and lead architects can remotely access the drone’s live surveillance through an encrypted cloud-server.

Similarly, potential and current clients; government and departmental representatives; and investors and prospects can have access to simply yet detailed visual project progress reports and models. This transparency is the cornerstone in bringing relevance and consistency within the construction industry.

Step-by-step, the drone-led improved on and off-site communication, the productivity-boost, the improved planning and modelling have helped cut down project timelines and boost output quality significantly.



June 2022

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