There’s a lot of buzz about using drones in construction, and the use cases are expanding. Forward thinking construction firms are finding drones help improve very distinct areas of project performance.

Current Use Cases

Many drone uses in construction fall under the broad header of project support. That includes construction progress reporting, providing images for documentation, and monitoring safety. Overall, drones can help with scheduling, communication, and improving accuracy on all types of project functions. The drones fly low level, serpentine flights over projects, recording thousands of images in the process. Later, you can use software to stitch together the images creating single, large, multiple images of a site.

Taming Risky Business

When it comes to safety, drones help ensure clean sites, and help people to see risks sooner, like those that contribute to falls. They also assist in identifying where traffic controls are needed, and they help with earthwork operations. Drones excel at just about any use where having eyes in the sky is beneficial. However, drones are not necessarily a must-have technology for all companies, particularly small ones.

Not For Everybody

The time and money needed to start using drones in construction is cost prohibitive for small companies. Not so much from the entry fee because you can get a drone for less than $1,000, but rather from the perspective of need, and managing the safety risks. To legally operate drones commercially, you need a special exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration. And, you ought to be especially aware of legal issues and risks that could crop up when using drones in construction. These run the gambit from accidental crashes to invading someone’s private space.

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Regulatory Hurdles

Much of the legal aspects of using drones in construction fall under FAA control, and those regulations are in a state of flux. However, there are opportunities right now for the construction industry to help fashion the regulations that eventually govern drone use. Ideas include establishing public private partnerships to work out solutions for the multiple scenarios on using drones in construction. And, the industry could help to shape the regulations by focusing on the ones that potentially offer the greatest challenges for the industry. These include rules about maintaining a visual sight line and the restrictions on the types of things drones are allowed to fly over.

While much of the future of using drones in construction rests in the final approved commercial uses and regulations governing those uses, the ideas for using them seem to have few limits. From real time control and oversight of scheduled activities, to real time inspections of building code compliance, and so much more, drones offer the possibilities of improved efficiencies, lower risk, and better project outcomes.