Drones pushing boundaries
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Technology is changing the construction industry: drones promise to build efficiency and help project managers keep tabs on the development

September 30, 2022 04:35 pm | Updated 05:12 pm IST

Construction is one of the most challenging processes, which includes an enormous amount of manpower and time. These difficulties include the risk of workers’ lives during construction, capturing the entire scene, inspecting the work, loading heavy metals and bricks, and so on. McKinsey’s report claims that there are a lot of inefficiencies in the building sector. Large construction projects frequently run 20% over budget and take 20% longer to complete than anticipated. Despite the considerable long-term benefits, the industry has been slower than other industries in adopting new digital technologies.

Reporting accuracy

However, recent times have unfurled a new and digital-led era in the construction sector that is now eager to incorporate advancements to ensure smooth operation.

Among other technologies, drones have witnessed a faster adoption and have contributed to a number of advancements in the industry, including better reporting accuracy, safety precautions, cost savings, and increased productivity. Once a property has been purchased, drones can be used throughout the construction process. They can be used for everything from land surveys to site progress via hyper-lapse footage to building structure inspection, showcasing live progress to clients and stakeholders and remote reporting via live video.

Versatility
The risk of accidents to workers is obviously decreased when they can monitor and check difficult-to-reach locations or areas without having to get there physically. To this, it should be added that securing the work area so that only authorised workers can access it is another aspect of safety on a construction site. Workers can fly a drone and inspect photographs without placing themselves in danger, as opposed to climbing electric poles or poorly built scaffolding structures, using ropes to evaluate facility elements, or working near busy highways. Raw images of the drones, because they have not been processed, provide an even higher level of detail and can be very useful for asset inspection and analysis.

In the construction business, a drone is mostly utilised for surveying and inspection tasks. Drones have downward-facing sensors like RGB, multispectral, thermal, or LIDAR, and they can quickly gather a lot of aerial data. The ground, its features, and buildings are photographed from various angles during an aerial drone survey with an RGB camera, and each image is tagged with coordinates. These extremely accurate geotagged photos can be utilised for assets and inspections, like rooftops of structures or difficult-to-reach locations. They can also be used to keep an eye on areas over great distances, like railroads, roads, and vegetation rows. By combining the photos, photogrammetry software can advance the technique and create geo-referenced 2D maps.

There is a lot of potential for using drone data to enhance operations for businesses developing and operating massive infra structures, such as roads, trains, bridges, dams, water reservoirs, airports, industrial complexes, oil and gas activities, and power complexes. Due to their size and complexity, these projects are subject to a myriad problems that technology can help address, including time-consuming and expensive surveys, the ability to spot construction errors early on, penalties for missing deadlines, and communication gaps between contractors and stakeholders. It can also assist stakeholders in conducting an effective survey to prevent financial obligations following construction due to poor maintenance and subsequent environmental harm.

Three-phase cycle

Pre-planning and bidding: Using aerial drone photography, engineers can better plan building projects. As soon as engineers get their hands on it, we can start making it better. In other words, it saves money. A drone can quickly fly over a construction site and report on its condition. With the help of high-resolution drone photos, project managers can keep tabs on the development, make educated decisions, and create accurate site maps.

Planning and design: The very same images recorded by drones can subsequently be utilised throughout the planning stage to serve as the basis for the work of others, including architects, local government officials, and engineers. Drone orthophotos and 3D models can be used to overlay structures into their surroundings to get a decent concept of how a new building might seem next to an existing one.

Execution and maintenance: A point cloud composed of thousands of points, each having geographical and visual data, can be generated from drone images. Thereafter, one may perform a cut/ fill analysis and obtain precise volume measurements using photogrammetry software. The amount of earth moved determines how much a contractor is paid. The amount of earth can be measured with such accuracy.

The payment margin is less in these calculations because of highly accurate drone data. Even Timelapse video can help in tracking progress over a period of time. The ability to overlay the CAD on the orthophoto is one of the most dramatic benefits of accurate site visualisation. This enables us to verify what was built and what was planned fit together by comparing the two.

For example, when a project milestone is achieved and the builder wants to ensure that all work has been completed to the best possible standard, this milestone serves as the foundation for further development. Therefore, if something is done incorrectly, progress may eventually stall and one may need to pull down earlier work. Having up-to-date visual data can aid in spotting errors before they manifest themselves and save demolition and the associated time and resource waste.

Maintenance is frequently overlooked because it consumes time and money and adds little value to operations at least not when things are running normally. However, facing a serious problem as a result of lack of maintenance, one can be held liable and lose a lot of money. Companies can visually inspect large assets or those located in difficult-to-reach areas more quickly and cost-effectively by sending drones into the air.

Technology involved

Hardware used in creating construction drones are ruggedly built with state-of-the-art design, lightweight, Ultra-high definition camera with longer range and require fewer accessories. Simple mobile or tablet devices can be used to deploy and manage software devices. These programmes pave the way for counter-error responses and user-friendly graphical user interface (GUI).

Undoubtedly, the drone market is growing quickly, which is great news for the construction industry. Since there will be more objects to carry around or up to unexpected heights on construction sites, modern cargo UAVs will be handier. It’s reasonable to conclude that the commercial drone is here to stay as long as the technology can navigate zoning and aviation regulations at the federal level. Drones operated by AI will likely soon be capable of managing themselves in any field, negating the need for human controllers.

Variants
Drones can be categorised as fixed wing, rotary and Vtol (vertical take-off and landing). Mostly for construction companies, rotary drones are better until and unless the area is very huge. Thermal drones are also being used but that’s mainly for structural analysis and night surveillance.

The writer is CEO & founder, VFLYX India and XBOOM Utilities.

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