Why are we considering the use of drones in construction monitoring? Anybody who has worked in construction is aware of the vast difference between what plans are like on paper, versus the ground reality. “Easier said than done,” is what people say. But that’s not necessarily true when it comes to using drones in construction.
To give you an analogy, this is how they would work: When you’re writing a document on a computer, any application you’re using will point out the mistakes you’re making in real-time. Make one error in spelling, punctuation or sentence construction, you’ll immediately see that portion being underlined in red.
Imagine if this was possible on the ground as well. When you’re constructing a building, could you have a real-time editor to flag you when something is amiss? With ideaForge’s UAVs, this is what becomes possible.
A construction project is typically monitored manually. In the process, an unfeasible amount of time and manpower is utilized in surveying the project site, different sources of data are identified and data is gathered, and in the meanwhile, it is possible that manual errors and pilferage is overlooked.
Drones are not only useful for project progress monitoring and reporting but are also invaluable in each stage of construction.
A standard construction project, in general, has the following four major life cycle phases, and here is how drones can be used:
Every project site begins as a plot of land. An aerial survey of the land can quickly capture the terrain and its challenges so that informed decisions can be made about how the construction can happen. You could even produce detailed topographic maps and 3D models on demand, which would give management a lot more useful information to work with.
Based on the data gathered during the survey, construction plans are created. During this phase, drone imaging can help add the real-world challenges of the land in the construction plan, rather than leaving it to assumption.
GIS mapping also enables 3D imaging of what the project might look like post-construction.
This is the most crucial stage of construction where everything happens at once. By this time, the flight paths of the drones are established and they’re monitoring and tracking specific activities on the ground. Drones are far superior to ground personnel when it comes to conducting monitoring and inspection procedures; in fact with ideaForge drones, each inspection or monitoring cycle can be completed in less than 25% of the time that it would take inspection staff to do it on foot, and that too without any oversights or errors. And also, if drones are being used, far fewer drones would be needed. Just a handful of drones could match the functional capacity of the multiple teams full of inspection and monitoring staff currently utilized. This has major cost implications, with saving as high as 84%.
Not only that, with drones you can spot faults in the construction very early on and rectify them immediately. Some contractors feel comfortable with doing the tasks out of order, and a lot of the time, it’s fine. But it can also be highly detrimental to the construction as a whole later on due to some oversights. With the end goal and time-frame as a reference, drones can capture the rate of progress and how far a project has gone and also ensure that the work is being done in the most optimal and structured way. Any deviations from the plan can instantly be reported and addressed.
In the meanwhile, drones can also keep track of anomalous activities that indicate theft, pilferage and even safety-related events.
When construction is completed, everything might seem perfect from the outside. However, using drones with thermal imaging in this phase could prove valuable in detecting any heat leaks. It monitors the “unseeable”- what runs in the walls, pipes underground, etc.
By implementing drones in a post-construction phase, we begin to look at the project in an entirely new light. Now it is possible to utilize drones for managing the facility and detecting any maintenance issues. This includes things like rooftop inspections. This is a part of routine maintenance procedures for houses and apartment buildings, and is one aspect of maintenance that could benefit hugely from the introduction of drones. Since they can easily fly up there and provide real time imagery of the rooftops, they are very useful for spotting things like moss or algae growth, excess debris, beds of fallen leaves etc. They can inspect electrical components on the roof or external units of air-conditioners, water mains and pipelines, windows, exhaust vents, and any external fixtures.
With aerial imagery and photogrammetry, they can even provide very detailed and accurate maps of the roof which can be used to identify cracks, flashings, texture loss, rust, and so much more. This can also save a lot of expenditure that goes into conducting these inspections on foot, almost half the cost, and the results are a lot more thorough and reliable.
Most importantly, this eliminates the risk that a person would have to take in order to carry out these inspections manually.
Aerial site intelligence is more valuable for construction projects beyond the predictable deliverables. In India, the construction sector involves a mass of daily-wage labourers and formally, nobody is required to report accidents or ill-health. However, in India, over 48,000 construction workers die every year as a result of an accident. These incidents are under-reported.
Using drones to capture construction progress is a sure-fire way of capturing all relevant data, as is and without bias, and that too in a much quicker and efficient way.
Challenges will continue to exist on the ground, and drones are instrumental in mitigating them with speed and precision. At the end of the day, the quality and output of the construction are not compromised, and we can hope to be as perfect as we begin on paper.
Drones are not only valuable for each project independently, but capturing all aspects of construction with accuracy, leaves the people who are responsible for construction with a goldmine of data that can be used in the future as well. In short, the more we utilize drones in construction progress and monitoring, the less time we’ll spend on the same construction-related challenges in future.