The construction industry in Europe is beginning to find that UAVs can improve productivity, reduce risk and improve profitability.
This is from an extensive article in Construction Europe by Mike Hayes.
While technology advances in the construction sector promise faster and more efficient working practices, productivity levels remain a thorn in the side for many European contractors.
Telematics, machine control, robotics and a myriad safety and uptime improvements can’t seem to defeat this stubbornly costly issue.
Cue the drones…or maybe not. It was not so long ago that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), otherwise known as drones, were seen by industry insiders as gimmicks at best – toys at worst.
Now, however, forward-thinking contractors are seeing their faith paying off, as drones quickly gather immense amounts of data on their sites that would previously have been prohibitively expensive and extremely time consuming.
Today, while few drone specialists are claiming the machines could be a game changer, they do maintain that, used in conjunction with increasingly sophisticated software, they have the potential to boost productivity on construction projects.
If proof were needed, commercial UAVs have already had an impact in the agriculture and renewable energy industries, but better drones and smarter software could now be ready to inspire construction contractors to get the flying bug.
Drones featuring at technology shows
Flying tech zones are already becoming an essential element of construction shows and construction-focused tech shows, such as the forthcoming InterGeo in Stuttgart, Germany.
In the UK, as part of the recent Plantworx construction exhibition, DroneCon2019 took place, featuring drone experts and companies including Topcon, Cyberhawk and Pix4D.
Jenny Adams from the Scotland-based software firm Cyberhawk described the powerful technology that can be used in conjunction with drone flights. She said, “You don’t have to install an app onto your desktop – anywhere you’ve got connection to the internet, you can use a login to get into this.
“You can zoom in to about 20 or 30 mm detail – you can start to compare datasets and you can actually use a slider to see how progress is going over time.
“Say, for instance, you have a contractor that says they’ve completed something, you can just log in to this – you don’t even have to get to the site – and you’ll see data that’s maybe at the most a week old, but you’ll be able to match up with what they’re talking about.
“On top of this, you’re using the photographic interface, because it gives people context, it’s visual. And what we’ve started to do is lay on top of this things like time-lapse imagery.
“Also, document registry – you can search tags and find exactly where a piece of equipment is on site. We can also produce 3D models from this software, so they can be pulled into CAD [computer aided design].
“And this can all be shared; logins can be set up with various permissions for contractors, for example, so everyone’s looking at the same information, so there’s no room for error.”
Other than general construction data, Adams described things like structural integrity checks that can be carried out using drones.
Looking at an image of an oil rig for example, she said, “We’re hosting this digitally, as a 3D model, giving you context.” She described the way changes in the structure are highlighted as “hotspots” by the drone, detailing concerns such as bulges in flare tips, that need to be addressed immediately, but could be missed during a manual check. Clearly, drones can offer vital data for the construction sector, but only if used in conjunction with the necessary software.
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