Home » BIM and Building Design » The 6 main uses of drones in construction

drones in construction

The 6 main uses of drones in construction

Drones are increasingly present in the construction industry. Let’s see the different types of drones and their various applications in the AEC sector

We all know what a drone is and most likely had the opportunity to use one for fun or for more professional uses. But are we really aware of their great potential in the construction world? In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look into how drones are becoming a fundamental piece of equipment in the construction industry.

What are drones used for in the construction industry?

Their capability to view objects and environments from unlikely observation points, their ability to store data and the consequent advantages that this leads to (cost and time savings, greater efficiency and workflow optimization), makes the use of drones in construction increasingly popular. Let’s see some of the possible applications.

  1. Topography and territory surveying:
    Although topographic maps is essential for the planning phase of large-scale projects, their update requires a strong investment in terms of time and costs and this is why we often rely on outdated topographic maps. In this regard, drones are fundamental, thanks to their ability to map large areas in a short time, allowing to base the design on accurate and precise topographical data, avoiding project delays and budget overruns.
  2. Equipment monitoring:
    It is not that uncommon for the Project Manager to have to locate equipment and machinery inside the construction site. A drone could be his faithful right arm! Thanks to the use of a drone, the project manager can quickly check the location of machinery and equipment, making sure that they are in the right place and check whether their use is still needed. In the case of equipment for rent, in fact, this check could avoid prolonged equipment stays on site and consequent unnecessary rental costs.
  3. Remote monitoring and progress reports:
    Another important aspect to take into account when using a drone in construction is the possibility of remotely monitoring the construction site, tracking progress and the results that are being achieved. This has the double benefit of keeping customers up to date even at a distance and ensuring the collaboration of the entire design team that can simultaneously access the data and detect any errors in order to correct them in a timely manner with xero impact on budget.
  4. Surveillance:
    You can quickly fly a drone to check the location of vehicles and equipment and prevent possible damage or theft.
  5. More safety for workers:
    Safety is a constant issue for all professionals involved in the AEC sector, because ensuring workers safety always remains one of the priorities. Also in this context, the use of drones can make a contribution. Through a well-planned flight of the drone, it is in fact possible to dispense workers from certain tasks and from reaching certain heights, avoiding their exposure to accidents. It is also possible to use drones to monitor and verify that the work is carried out in safe conditions, with the right prevention and protection measures and equipment.
  6. Survey and photography of the structure:
    Thanks to the use of drones, it is possible to avoid the use of bulky scaffolding and machinery and get a precise visual data of the site. By planning and carrying out accurate flights around the site, it is possible to monitor the structure and its construction details, capture high-resolution images and detect hotter or cooler areas thanks to thermal imaging. Such use of drones is therefore very useful for both ordinary and extraordinary maintenance operations.

What types of drones can be used in construction?

We are accustomed to thinking that drones differ only by the quality of the components. In reality, different types of drones can be used in construction according to the need and the surrounding conditions. Let’s look at them together.

  • Fixed-wing drones: shaped like a plane, they can fly along a set path and reach higher altitudes than other types of drones. This makes them particularly useful in the planning phase to carry out a topographical mapping or to survey large areas. However, they are not suitable for use in areas with many obstacles or confined spaces.
fixed wing drone

Fixed-wing drone

  • Multirotor drones: with a design that allows them to take-off and hover mid-air more firmly, making them easier to control as opposed to fixed wing drones. These drones are a good option for aerial surveying, facility monitoring, photographs and surveillance operations over short distances.
multirotor drone

Multirotor drone

Both types of drones are equipped with different tools and programs, including cameras, GPS, thermal sensors, infrared sensors, memory for data storage and software for transferring data to devices used by the entire design team.

What is the future of drones in the construction world?

The use of drones in the construction sector is gaining ground and the future sees an increasing use of these devices. Thisi is also due to the enhancement of their functionalities useful for the construction sector, such as that the possibility of mapping large surfaces in 3D.

In fact, drones can be used to carry out surveys of the existing work and get precise and detailed BIM models. The data acquired on site thanks to the use of drones must be processed and combined into a point cloud editing software. The point cloud is a file that contains a series of points arranged in space with information such as location (x,y,z coordinates), color, reflectance, etc.

From the point cloud it is possible to create incredibly accurate and precise BIM models of existing buildings. This process is called “Scan to BIM”.

Typically, point clouds are very large files and require performing hardware high processing times. That’s why I recommend you:

  • viewing the point cloud with the free point cloud viewer, leveraging the power of the cloud to process and view large files at unbeatable speed;
  • selecting the portion of cloud that interests you;
  • associating documents found during the research phase (cadastral plans, designs, drawings, etc.), work files, DWGs, IFCs, etc., or other information obtained from the photographic survey software during the surveying phase;
  • creating the BIM models of the existing building from point clouds with the point cloud to bim software.

A forward-looking approach should definitely include the use of these devices, which, if well used, ensure greater accuracy and precision of planning and design, time and cost savings, lower risks for workers and increased efficiency along the entire workflow.