New technologies applied to the construction industry: drones for surveying, self-healing concrete, robotics and autonomous vehicles on construction sites
Let’s continue to explore 2019 construction technology that is impacting this sector like never before. Specifically, we will investigate on the use of drones for surveying, self-healing concrete, the application of robotics and autonomous vehicles on construction sites
Here is the top ten of the most eye-catching technological innovations that will significantly influence the construction sector in 2019:
- wearable and portable technologies
- augmented reality in the design phase
- green and eco-sustainable asphalt
- drones and laser scanners for surveying
- innovative self-healing concretes
- robotics and building automation
- BIM platforms
- transparent aluminum
- new specialized professional figures
- 3D printers for construction
Drones and laser scanner for surveying
At a time when less is being built and the existing real estate is being recovered, the timely surveying of the state of buildings is of fundamental importance.
The detailed knowledge of a structure, a façade or a site, allows the designer to make wise choices, to optimize spaces and to estimate the works to be performed with considerable precision.
Nowadays, new technologies allow to combine metric, photographic and thermographic information thanks to the use of laser scanners and drones. The designer works directly on the structure knowing its shape, dimensions, materials, critical situations (injuries, unhealthy situations, etc.). This favours a very high level of design.
Drones are remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS). Their flight is remotely controlled by a pilot from ground or on top of another vehicle. There are drones of different sizes and types, with different characteristics, according to their purpose.
A few years ago, aerial photogrammetric survey methodologies were just exclusively reserved to surveying large areas. Currently, it is instead possible to use the aerial photogrammetry also for surveys of modest entity, thanks to equipment costs reduction for the development of increasingly innovative and functional software.
Survey operations can be developed through the following steps:
- planning flight operations
- choosing take-off, landing points and the position of the ground control station
- checking for obstacles on the fly (overhead cables)
- programming scheduled automatic flight missions
- planning topographic measurements to be made on the ground to support the aerial photogrammetric survey
The potentials offered by these technologies are still many, while the practical applications are increasingly widespread and the simplification of the operations of surveying are clearly evident.
Innovative self-repairing concretes
Concrete is one of the most common building material. Consequently, its maintenance and repair is a recurrent problem.
Research to improve this material performance is continuous and global with a focus on reducing maintenance and repair costs, which have always been an “issue”.
This innovation, designed to reduce the production amount of new concrete, integrates self-activating bacteria inside the material that produces new limestone, thus regenerating it and then repairing it.
Self-healing concrete finds valid application in two sectors: civil engineering and marine biology.
One of its inventors, a microbiologist at Delft University, said:
“One of my colleagues, a civil engineer with no knowledge of microbiology, read about applying limestone-producing bacteria to monuments, to preserve them”. “He asked me: ‘Is it possible for buildings?’ Then my task was to find the right bacteria that could not only survive being mixed into concrete, but also actively start a self-healing process.”
When it comes to concrete, water is often both the problem and the potential solution. Bacteria (Bacillus pseudofirmus or Sporosarcina pasteurii) are mixed and evenly distributed throughout the concrete, but can remain dormant for up to 200 years as long as there is food in the form of particles. With the arrival of rainwater or atmospheric moisture that seeps into the cracks, bacteria begin to produce the limestone that eventually repairs the cracks.
In fact, it is a process comparable to the way osteoblast cells make and maintain bones in our body.
Robotics and building automation
The development of robotics allows, year after year, to put new models on the market that are thus employed in the most varied sectors. The construction industry is not excluded from this innovative technological contribution.
Today the most common type of construction robot is the mechanical arm.
The fixed versions of these robots have been in operation for years in factories and on production assembly lines. Now, portable adaptations are being developed to be used in all types of activities on construction sites.
These robots, that can be programmed to perform a series of repetitive and labour intensive tasks , will have a huge impact on the sector by reducing accidents and significantly increasing productivity.
A particularly important example is the robot developed by an American company that uses ‘hot wire cutting’ to develop complex forms of cement with double curvature. Traditionally this process takes time and is quite expensive.
These robots can be programmed and have a higher degree of accuracy than a human worker in a shorter time frame.
Robots are entering the construction sector also in the form of autonomous rovers, equipped with high-definition cameras and sensors, which allow them to navigate within construction sites.
There are robots like EffiBOT, able to follow workers, bringing tools and materials, identifying and avoiding obstacles; or Doxel, a rover that uses high-definition cameras and LIDAR sensors (Light Imaging, Detection and Ranging) to carry out on-site inspections, comparing progress with models and design programs.
In the next article we will focus on: BIM platforms and transparent aluminum.