Drones and the Job Sites of the Future

BIM integration, automated safety reports, and AI-fueled maps are just a few of the reasons UAVs are set to revolutionize the construction industry

Imagine this: you get to work on Monday and a drone-generated job site report is waiting for you. While you were at home eating breakfast, your drone completed an automated site safety check, gathered data on your project’s progress, and assessed the work you need to do to stay on track.

Sound too good to be true? Nope.

This is the future of the construction job site, and it’s not as far away as you might think. For many construction companies, drones have become an integral tool for gathering site data and making informed decisions. And, with advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence on the horizon, drones are poised to completely revolutionize the construction industry in 2018 and beyond.

Here’s a look at where we are, where we’ve been, and the role of drones on the job site of the future.

The Evolution of Drones in Construction: From Experimental Technology to Business as Usual in Under Five Years

Five years ago, commercial drones looked a lot like expensive science experiments.

In 2012, deploying a drone on a construction site was a clunky, expensive endeavor (think slow, desktop processing and a $30K hardware & software package). The high barrier to entry made it tough for site engineers and operations managers to convince top brass that they should give these strange, flying robots a try.

Today, commercial drones are smaller, cheaper, and work with a range of devices thanks to software like DroneDeploy.

Fast forward five years, and what was once considered an experimental technology is now just a regular part of doing business on a construction site. The price of a drone has dropped nearly ninety percent, and much of the world’s computing has moved to the cloud. With major players like DJI and DroneDeploy leading the way, construction companies can now access hardware and software packages that meet their site-specific needs.

The Latest Drone Advancements in Construction

Today, UAVs play an integral role in everything from monitoring site progress to generating accurate contour maps, to measuring stockpiles. The importance of drones on the construction site continues to grow at a rapid pace, with no signs of slowing down.

In the last year alone, we saw some major advances that changed the way the construction industry interacts with drones. From advancements in edge computing and real-time analysis to automatic roof inspection, the latest hardware and software has unlocked new possibilities on the job site. Here are some of the highlights:

The Next Generation of Drones in Construction

Last year was a banner year for drones. But there is still much to come. Which bring us to the future of drones in construction, and what we can expect to see in 2018 and beyond.

Improvements in machine learning will make drones adaptive in urban environments, so they will sense obstacles automatically and adapt flight plans as needed.

We anticipate drone flights to become both fully automated and highly adaptive. Not only will drones be able to execute a flight without human intervention, but map processing, analyzing, and reporting will become largely automated as well. Construction pros can expect a day where pre-scheduled site safety checks and stockpile analysis reports will be ready and waiting when they need them.

Machine learning will also make drone flights adaptive and agile. UAVs will independently make in-flight adjustments to maneuver around obstacles, guarantee good image quality, and route the drone for a second pass when necessary.

“By knowing about the data collected, AI can benefit users as it gets to know what customers want to do with it. And machine learning will enable instant decisions during the drone’s flight.” — Nick Pilkington, CTO at DroneDeploy

Drone-generated point clouds can be integrated with BIM software to produce high-quality models for virtual site planning and design. Soon the integrations will be seamless, and largely automated.

Construction professionals already leverage drone-generated point clouds in BIM software, but this still takes human intervention at every step. Wouldn’t your time be better spent putting data into action, rather than sitting behind a computer exporting and importing drone models? We envision a future in which the entire process — from takeoff and data collection, to BIM integration, to report generation — is automated.

BIM integration will simplify progress tracking, reduce project execution inefficiencies, and help make recommendations of what a project needs to stay on track. All with the push of a few buttons.

As companies integrate drones on every job site and across even more workflows, human interaction at every step of the way will no longer be scalable. Computers must learn what construction professionals are looking for in their drone data.

“Having the largest dataset of imagery put us in a position to build the best machine products. If we know what our customers are trying to do with their data we can help replace the tasks that are tedious, difficult or error prone with machine learning” — Nicholas Pilkington, CTO at DroneDeploy

Machine learning will provide automatic workflows for measuring and reporting accurate stockpile volumes.

But have no fear. Advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence are keeping pace with this need. In the near future, machine learning and AI will help drones identify objects and ground control points (GCPs) on site, automatically assess aggregate stockpile volumes, and make on-site measurements with centimeter-level precision.

Machine learning algorithms will automatically identify ground control points in seconds.

The future of drones in construction is bright. And we’re just seeing the beginning of what’s possible. As drones continue to take flight in construction, one thing is certain: we are well on our way to a time when a drone is as ubiquitous, and as indispensable, as any other tool on a job site.

We’re ready for it. Are you?

Where to Learn More

Get Started with DroneDeploy

Want to learn how DroneDeploy can help your business? Visit www.dronedeploy.com to start your free trial or request a consultation with one of our team members. The DroneDeploy mobile application is available for free download for both iOS and Android devices.

*Disclaimer: You must be a licensed surveyor to designate a map as survey-grade.

DroneDeploy's Blog

DroneDeploy is the leading cloud software platform for commercial drones. Learn more at www.dronedeploy.com

DroneDeploy

Written by

DroneDeploy is the leading cloud software platform for commercial drones.

DroneDeploy's Blog

DroneDeploy is the leading cloud software platform for commercial drones. Learn more at www.dronedeploy.com

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