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How can drones be used in Construction

May 30, 2017

Drones in Construction


Being a child of the 80’s and working on construction my whole life. Technology has advanced so much in the last 20 years and the most exciting thing for me is the notion of drones in construction. Technology has always been an interest of mine and given that my career has been entirely focused around construction I am constantly reseraching new technologies and innovations which can help the industry be more economical. By far, the most exciting piece of technology in recent years has been the drone. A recent survey by dronesdirect.co.uk reported that 12% of construction firms are now using drone technology and with more and more construction companies choosing to adopt the use of drones the market is set to increase. 


What are drones?


For those that might not be aware; drones are radio controlled flying units that can be used for recreational purposes or if fitted with a camera it can also be a valuable tool for producing reports and surveys. 


How can drones be used specifically in construction?


Roof Surveys


Drones are best used for carrying out surveys in hard to reach areas. On a domestic scale a house owner or local builder might opt to use a drone to survey the roof for any defects. This option might be favourable saving on high scaffold costs and may be better as a ‘first port of call’ when suspecting defects in the roof. This can be scaled up and used on a commercial level.


Unsafe structures


A drone could be useful when surveying unsafe structures. If a multistorey car park is deemed unsafe by a structural engineer the preferable option would be to avoid sending in any operatives for inspection. Using a drone here is a good example of how this technology can be used to reduce risk to construction operatives and professionals.


Progress Reports


On large construction projects contractors and developers will usually provide the client with a progress report. A forward thinking building company might consider using a drone to circle the site and show clients key areas of progress. This has multiple benefits as the client can see how their project is progressing without the need to go on a busy site. Aside from giving a unique aerial view of the site, specialist drones can also measure materials on site. 




With large infrastructure projects underway all over the UK, more and more drone footage is appearing online. This is a favorable option as a drone can provide aerial footage and can be packaged into a neatly edited video which could be used for marketing purposes or just to update the public on progress. Infrastructure projects are ideal early adopters of drones. These projects can be very large in scale and a drone can fly around, capturing footage in a relatively short period of time. 


Pre-Construction Survey


More advanced drones can carry out detailed surveys of greenfield sites. Aside from the aerial footage which can prove to be advantageous itself, drones can collect data key for producing cost estimates. Data captured can include site topography conditions and volumes and can be exported to industry standard software such as CAD and other design software programs. 


What do you need to fly a drone


While at this time, anyone can buy a drone, in order to operate on a commercial scale (which basically means if you benefit financially from flying) then you need permission from the Civil Aviation Authority. To obtain the PfCO (Permission for Commercial Operation) from the CAA an individual will need to pass a theory exam covering subjects such as navigation, airmanship and best practices and will also need to pass a practical assessment where an examiner will test the individuals flying capability and knowledge. During all of this the RP (remote pilot) will produce an Operations Manual which provides all of the details on how they will operate safely. If the RP passes all of the steps above then they can apply for the PfCO with the CAA. It's a thorough process and anyone who passes should be well versed in safety standards set by the CAA. 


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