Attack of the Drones?

  • Jun 11, 2015

Since 60 Minutes reported in 2013 on Amazon’s plans to eventually deliver packages via drone, quad copters and drones have been a part of mainstream water cooler talk. Nearly a year and a half since, the construction industry is increasingly exploring how aerial photography can be useful for our project process.

The development of remote controlled unmanned aircraft, at reasonable price points, has allowed the AEC industry to test drive these tools for a wide range of applications that in the past may have been unsafe, inefficient, or very expensive. These former “hobby toys” are now extremely beneficial tools that help firms get jobs done faster, safer and with greater flexibility.

For one client, aerial photography was critical in performing roof and gutter quality control inspections on a very expensive roofing product that was not easily accessible by foot. The pitched roofs were not intended to be walked on after installation. Originally, the inspection plan was to rent a man lift, get as close as possible to take pictures of observations and slowly crawl to the next picture point. With over 125,000 SF of roof to inspect on six buildings, the task of moving a man lift over a busy construction site above working crews was an expensive and slow solution.

By using an aerial photography solution, the team was able to save time inspecting and get better pictures. Roof inspections per building took less than an hour and provided more flexibility and detail in the pictures that could be captured, including shots that were closer to the buildings and access views that would have been difficult for a boom to reach.

Outside from safer quality control inspections, the team was able to capture additional site progress photos. These views allowed for more thorough discussions about restrictions and limitations during the project’s landscaping progress.

As with any piece of technology, it is fun and exciting to see where this product is going in the near future. Using aerial photography tools safely and legally is something that must always be part of the discussion. While the FAA is continuing to evaluate the different regulations and requirements for these devices, we recommend that teams have a safety plan on who, how and when the equipment will be used.