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The Truth about Drones in Construction and Inspection

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We have just released a new research study titled “The Truth about Drones in Construction and Infrastructure Inspection.” The free report is the second in series of studies sponsored by BZ Media that looks objectively at each major commercial market for drones and drone technology.

In the report, we show how drones have been used successfully in construction and infrastructure asset management as aerial image and data capture devices thus far, review competitive and traditional approaches using incumbent technology, discuss the opportunities and challenges posed by the technology itself, outline the lessons learned, and discuss what’s next for drones in this industry. Here is an excerpt:

Unlike The Truth about Drones in Precision Agriculture, where satellite and manned aircraft image services have been available to growers at low costs for years, construction and inspection professionals have had historically few options. Up until now, the process for construction planning and documenting was mostly manual and done from the ground — and hiring helicopters or aircraft to take aerial images was either too costly or logistically impossible due to airspace restrictions. The simple truth is small drones — in particular multirotors — can fly lower and closer than traditional aircraft and capture more useful detailed information.

In the inspection world, unmanned aircraft have a distinct cost and safety advantage over using people on ropes, ladders, scaffolding, and bucket trucks. For example, a rope-access inspection at a wind farm can involve two or three workers who need at least half a day to get the job done in order to produce a series of photos for a report. This can cost $1,200-$1,500 every 12-18 months – in addition to the costs incurred from shutting off the turbines for at least half a day (see details here).

There are many other examples of the benefit of drones vs. traditional approaches. This article points out that the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MDOT) recently completed a study on the benefits of using drones to inspect roads and bridges. MDOT estimated that a standard bridge deck inspection costs $4,600, takes eight hours, a crew of four people and heavy equipment. The same inspection with a drone takes just two people and two hours, at a significantly lower cost.

The report goes on to summarize the proof-of-concept projects for drones done by hundreds of firms across the globe – not just for construction but also for civil infrastructure and asset management purposes. We explore the major project types according to a commonly used building lifecycle framework of design, construction, operation, and demolition.

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