This article will talk about drones and their uses in the construction industry. We will also discuss the rules and regulations of flying drones in Australia and their challenges.
In this article
Construction is a versatile industry, with many moving elements, different workflows, and typically involves precise data prediction and in-depth knowledge of various tools. With many technological advancements, businesses might have moved ahead of the traditional construction methods. According to a report by Allied Market Research, the global market for construction drones is expected to reach $11,968.6 million by 2027. This study indicates that many industries might use construction drones to streamline processes and potentially increase efficiency.
Drones and the construction industry
Drones, also called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are generally unpiloted aircrafts. They can be as small as a mobile phone or as large as an aeroplane. According to the Australian Government’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority, drones’ sizes can vary from 250 grams to more than 150 kg.
As per BizCover, ‘specialised commercial drones are popularly used for land surveying, terrain mapping, site inspection, and videography’. Their data collection capabilities with 360-degree views might make them an appropriate tool to be used in the construction industry. There could be many benefits of drones in construction, some of which are listed below.
- Drones used in construction can help monitor areas that might be difficult to reach manually.
- They can provide a complete visual representation of the construction site.
- Can help in project management and effective communication between workers. For instance, drones might allow workers to map and model the work site and circulate information among themselves for proper planning.
- Aerial imagery obtained via drones might help in identifying any potential challenges such as uneven surfaces, unstable terrain, seepage, or road deterioration.
- They can also help offer full-time remote access to the on-site working progress.
What are the rules for flying drones in Australia?
The Australian Government’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has some drone safety rules to be considered while flying drones. For instance, ‘to fly for work or your employer, you must be 16 years or older to register a drone and get an operator accreditation’.
The standard operating rules apply to all types of drones and other remote-controlled aircraft. The Australian Government has also laid down penalties that could be imposed on people who are not following the rules.
5 Uses of drones in construction
According to an article by LinkedIn, ‘using drones to collect data, facilities and property management firms can now safely and efficiently analyze and recommend remediation as quickly as within 24 hours of the inspection’. There might be many different uses of drones in the construction industry, five of which are listed below.
1. Land surveying and mapping
A construction project might need proper planning and mapping before the on-site work starts. Drones could provide visual data and information that can help construction companies understand and survey the whole site. In addition, drones might also help create topographic maps of the areas, which can help during the pre-construction phase to ensure that the project can proceed to the next stage.
Moreover, due to their ability to inspect large areas of land and generate 2D and 3D images, drones can help companies cut down on on-site topography costs. This pre-collected data might also help them in identifying any potential problems that can occur during construction. For instance, a piece of land prone to flooding might not be an ideal location for building.
2. Tracking complex construction equipment
Construction sites can be huge, and the equipment used to build on them can be just as varied and complex. There might be times when it becomes difficult to keep track of all the necessary equipment —such as bulldozers, tractors, cranes, and dump trucks. In such cases, drones can help construction companies locate all the equipment on the site. They might also help in effective project management, improved collaboration, reduced timelines, and storing inventory in advance. This can be achieved with the help of some common features of drones such as thermal sensors for measuring temperature, GPS units, cameras, electronic speed controllers, antenna, and altimeters, which are used for measuring altitudes.
3. Generating project progress reports
Drones can generate aerial reports of the construction land. This feature might help the people involved —construction managers, workers, engineers, and the design team— track an ongoing project’s progress. Additionally, people working remotely might also be able to access the data and identify potential flaws remotely. The real-time progress in data and site images can also be shared with the client. This might increase client satisfaction and help reassure them that their project is progressing efficiently.
4. Security surveillance and quick inspections
Construction equipment is generally cost-heavy, so a theft on-site can lead to financial losses. According to an article by 9Now, with prices of some building materials skyrocketing, there has been an increase in theft from construction sites. In such cases, drones can work as a security surveillance device and alert stakeholders of any unauthorised or illicit activity.
Drones can also help in quick land inspections, saving the time and money involved in manually doing it. They can also help provide accurate ground measurements and create an overall outline of the site with the help of aerial imagery. For instance, a drone can help determine any possible cracks and deteriorations in a particular road. The images gathered during drone-based inspections can also help construction companies estimate the cost involved in repairing specific areas.
How can you register your drone for use in Australia?
According to the CASA, drones are allowed in Australia for commercial and recreational purposes only —subject to rules and regulations. Before using drones for construction or other such purposes, you may need to register your drone by creating a myCASA account.
The registration would be valid for a year, and the fee may vary depending upon your intent to use the drone. You might also need to submit your identification proof and the drone’s serial number, model, type, and weight.
5. Transporting urgent goods or documents
Drones can also be used to transport urgent goods and documents within the site promptly. For instance, a construction manager inspecting a high-level site can get a map delivered to him using drones. Similarly, urgent medical kits can also be provided with the help of drones to places that are otherwise difficult to reach.
The future of drones in construction
Some construction companies might have already started using drones in their projects. However, such implementation might depend on your business’s financial abilities and other requirements. Before opting for drones, you might need to consider specifics such as the cost, type, and choice of model. Moreover, with technological progressions in place, drones in the construction industry might effectively mould the future of construction processes.