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How to use drones to assess construction sites

Last updated on

August 13, 2018


    Drones are providing valuable work across many diverse industries today, with the aircraft found everywhere from the mine to the warehouse and even the battlefield. But one place where drones have proved to have the biggest impact is on the construction site. Drones have become as common on the construction site as the dump truck or excavator.

    Drones have transformed certain parts of the construction industry, being able to quickly and efficiently carry out a multitude of tasks that used to take days. But while most larger construction sites already use drones, smaller sites are still to realise the benefits these machines can bring.

    So if you are not yet deploying drones to monitor your building projects. Here’s a quick look at how drones can be used to improve efficiency and safety at all stages of the building process, from planning to completion.


    No matter what size of project you are working on, the planning stage is one of the most time consuming and resource intensive. Lots of legwork has to be done to carry out land surveys, check for soil contamination, carry out feasibility studies and draw up plans before a single brick can be laid.

    Drones can help with this stage of the project by quickly and efficiently creating 3D models which contain both statistical and cartographic information. These can then be uploaded to the cloud where they can be accessed by multiple departments, including surveyors, architects and building contractors to help plan works more efficiently.

    Previously, obtaining this kind of information would have required the rental of expensive equipment, making it uneconomical for all but the largest projects. But by using drones equipped with advanced imaging technology, such as the DJI Matrice 210 with optional Zenmuse XT2 dual vision sensor, this information can be collected and made available online within a few hours.


    The job of the surveyor has been transformed by the use of drones. A task that once took many days of painstaking work can now be carried out in a few hours. And not only is the task of data collection more efficient, the data collected is much more accurate as well.

    Today’s state-of-the-art commercial drones, such as the Matrice 200, can be fitted with a range of payloads and sensors, including thermal imaging and HD video cameras. The aircraft themselves are also durable and able to operate in all weather conditions, including sub-zero temperatures. An important consideration when surveying sites in winter.

    And it doesn’t matter what size of the project you are working on. The Matrice 200 can fly for up to 30 mins and has a range up to 7 km (depending on payload). Giving more than enough range for even the largest infrastructure projects.

    Data analysis

    Because today’s drones are so cost-effective and easy to deploy, they can be used to gather data throughout the entire build process. This data can then be used by relevant departments to gain vital information about the conditions on-site as the build progresses.

    For example, digital surface models (DSMs) can be created, allowing contractors to get an orbital view of the site. If your drone is equipped with a thermal camera such as the Zenmuse XT2, these models can be combined with heat maps to show elevation changes and drainage channels.

    These can then be used to monitor site drainage under various conditions to ensure environmental regulations are being met.

    Contractors can also use DSM data to compare the structure as it comes out of the ground with plans provided by the architect. This helps to identify problems early when they are much easier to fix. And because the data is available online it can be shared with other stakeholders quickly and easily.


    Building inspection

    During construction regular building inspections need to be carried out to ensure the project meets all building and environmental regulations and that it remains true to the original architectural plans. Traditionally, this process is time-consuming and involves building inspectors and surveyors scouring the building to take photographs and record data.

    By equipping a drone with a high-definition camera such as the Zenmuse Z30, these inspections can be carried out quickly and safely from the ground. For example, by using a Matrice 600 drone equipped with a Zenmuse Z30 camera.

    An operator can capture orthomosaic maps and elevation maps of the site in a matter of hours. Using traditional methods it would take a team of surveyors several days to capture the same information.

    Once captured this data can be viewed by engineers and surveyors from the comfort of their own office without having to visit the site. This not only reduces insurance costs and safety risks, it is a more efficient use of time and improves the work-life balance for these mission-critical employees.

    Maintaining safety

    There is no more an important task on any construction site than ensuring the safety of employees and contractors. With 49% of all construction site fatalities the result of falling from the height, the more you can keep employees safe on the ground the better.

    By using drones to carry out such inspection work, site operators can reduce the number of personnel working at height.

    Drones are also an excellent way to monitor site activity and personal. The helicopter view provided by drones gives operators a 360-degree view of the site. This makes it easy to spot the roofer precariously balanced on a lintel or a groundworker dangerously close to machinery.

    Movement of machinery can also be monitored which can help spot potential safety risks before they occur. For example, a site office located too close to a congested access road may need to be moved to prevent accidents from occurring. Such problems are difficult to spot from the ground but are easily noticeable from the air.

    As you can see the applications for drone use in the construction industry is endless. It is no wonder that more and more building contractors are using drones to plan projects, survey sites, monitor progress and maintain safety. And with drone technology continuing to advance, the number of applications will continue to rise. So if you’re not already using drones on your construction site.

    Contact Coptrz today for more information about our range of commercial drones and CAA training packages.


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