There was a time where many viewed the drone as little more than a toy for big kids. Children could play with their little toy helicopters, but adults now have the chance to fly some impressive machines.
The abilities and tech of these machines have advanced at such a rate that they have real potential in many industries. This notion is especially true within drones in construction.
Companies are keen to explore their options with drone tech to save time, money and labor. Some are doing so with great results, but there is that overbearing issue of rule changes and regulations.
It is not hard to see the potential of drones in construction when looking at recent advancements.
One of the most important uses of drones is in surveying work. Drones need to fly across project sites and landscapes for a better view of the surrounding area.
They can take images in hard to reach places, which helps companies to plan routes and avoid problems. This is much faster and easier than relying on humans to cover the land by foot.
Operators can just send off a drone, stitch together the images into a map and analysis the results from the ground. Identified Technologies is one company using drones to their advantage. They have found that they can map large areas in minutes.
This means that they get data in as little as 9 minutes with an electronic drone. It could take up to a month with human effort.
Then there are those that use drones in construction to carry inspections of equipment to find faults. Operators can send off a drone with thermal cameras to look at heat signatures or spot damage in hard to reach places. This is particularly useful for working on high rise buildings.
Again, this is much faster and safer than sending in humans. A company called Austin Commercial LP are currently doing just that in Houston high rises. The drones can go where humans cannot for a quick view of the exterior of the building. They say that this saves time any money while also reducing the risk for employees.
The great thing about these smart, adaptable drones is that there are many ways that there are many uses within industries and construction. The camera and the quality of images mean that automated drones could increase security on some sites.
A security guard can only cover so much ground, but a drone could keep watch over wider perimeters and stockpiles of materials. Others see the potential in using drones as delivery systems.
Amazon recently made the headlines with ideas of deliveries of purchases by drones, and the same principle applies. Drones can pick up and drop off goods in remote locations.
This could be a great aid for sub-teams across a site that need information, data or materials. There are even hopes that drones will soon be able to pick up and place materials to add with the physical construction.
The problem with these grand ideas for the use of drones in construction is that there are regulations and limitations.
The increased use of drones in the US, both industrial and commercial, has led to increased government regulations and ever-changing rules. There is a clear need for legislation, licensing for operators and the maintenance of safety standards.
Many of these rules came about because of the issue of liability. Companies using drones in construction cannot be liable if a drone fails or crashes around people.
It is also important to remember that airspace is part of property. Therefore, drones need to fly safely around people, property, and equipment. This means that there are clear guidelines on what these machines can and cannot do within current environments.
Operators and companies must adhere to the rules if they are to continue to use these machines to their advantage.
Many of these vital rules came about with the adaptations to Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. These code of conduct lists some of the important rules to follow for safe, responsible practice.
Firstly, the drone must weigh less than 55 pounds, which places limits on some high-models. They also cannot fly higher than 400 feet in the air and cannot leave the operator’s visual line of sight. A drone that isn’t visible could be a hazard to people and property.
This, therefore, means that most cannot be flown at night and many can only be flown in low light with the right lights onboard. They also cannot fly over people without consent and users can not operate them from a moving vehicle.
The additional problem here, of course, is the fact that the rules are continually changing to meet the needs of the industry and to keep new technology in check.
New advancements in drones mean bigger, more powerful units with greater capabilities. This means that new rules may need to come in to ensure that they can be of use in the workplace.
As a result, any company looking to use drones in construction needs to be up to date. This means substantial knowledge on the requirements of operators, licensing and the specifics of the current rules.
One slip up and they could find themselves operating a drone illegally under what was once a sound law. There is a clear need for adaptation and vigilance here.
Those construction companies that can keep on top of legislation and technological advances can benefit from the use of drones.
Not only have many firms proven that drones are reliable and useful, but it is also possible to use them within the rules. The complexity, power and image production of modern drones means that the potential for surveillance, mapping, and inspection is significant.
There will always be rules on the operation, distances and functions to avoid liability and worker hazards with drones in construction. There does seem to be a nice balance between control over drones and giving them space to develop.
There is no doubt that more companies will find more ways to increase efficiency and lower costs with these machines.