Using Drones in Construction for Disaster Relief and Reconstruction | Innovation
As we move into the digital age and new tools become available to enhance and expand our capabilities, we begin to see how they also create new opportunities for productivity and safety. Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones as they’re more commonly known, have been in use by the military for years, but have only recently entered the commercial market. As they become less expensive, they also become more common, and forward-thinking innovators find new uses for them. Professionals are already deploying drones for low-level, on-demand aerial photography and some firms are using drones in construction to keep an eye out for safety and security on job sites.
Why Using Drones in Construction Matters
With developments in digital imaging and collection, drones are becoming the go-to technology for fast, safe and accurate data collection. Drones save time, reduce the risks of physical injury, and provide high quality data, all at the push of a button. Here’s how.
Drones provide quick, reliable imagery and data by:
- Flying closer, under the clouds and close to the ground
- Deploying and working quickly
- Using digital tools for ease of use — automated and smartphone driven
- High-resolution digital cameras — no waiting for imagery
The Role of Drones in Disaster Relief
Drones gather timely and accurate information, aiding companies like WeRobotics in disaster relief efforts
It goes without saying that accurate and timely information is one of the most important tools in all areas of construction, but this is doubly true for post-disaster recovery. In these critical operations, conditions on-site may be hazardous and unstable, and decisions are needed quickly to minimize danger and begin the process of rebuilding. Drones are already a familiar sight on construction sites and their role in rebuilding is developing quickly.
WeRobotics is one nonprofit organization leading the way in this area, pioneering the use of drones in post-disaster recovery in some of the most remote corners of the world. The organization empowers local professionals through its Flying Labs to use these tools to address the challenges faced in rebuilding.
Patrick Meier, one of the co-founders of WeRobotics, gave a TED Talk in Germany where he spoke about working in Nepal after a major earthquake. He highlighted the ease of use of drones and the digital tools that drive them as well as the quality of information they provide.
Using a smartphone app paired to the drone, all a user needs do is highlight an area on a map and push go. From this point the drone becomes autonomous, truly unmanned, flying through the selected area collecting digital photos. These images can then be stitched together to form a highly accurate map, or they can be converted into high-definition 3D models.
Drone vs. Satellite Imagery: Get a Little Closer
Drones in construction allow for closer and more accurate views of jobsites, increasing safety, efficiency, and time saved
Satellite imagery has shown us the world in new ways, giving us a view of our planet from beyond the atmosphere. While those images remain powerful, they offer little in the way of practical data for construction or reconstruction. The imagery and data provided by drones are far superior owing to the user’s ability for granular control, the ability of the drones to fly close, under cloud cover, an overpass, or within a structurally questionable building, not to mention the fact that drones can be deployed at a moment’s notice.
Finally, by combining drones with advances in AI and Machine Learning for construction safety, use of drones minimize human risk and increase efficiency through automation, making drones the clear winner. This is why we’re seeing such a surge in the use of drones in construction. As the cost of drones comes down, the gains in safety and productivity become undeniable and coupled with the accuracy and versatility of the data, it’s no doubt we’ll continue seeing drones on the rise.
A Digital Eye on the Future
It’s hardly news that better information means better decisions and more efficient allocation of resources, but the huge leap forward granted by drones represents the cutting edge of construction tools and information gathering techniques. As with many digital tools, drone technology is constantly being enhanced and developed, creating even greater versatility in their use. Integration of their data into VR space and into Autodesk environments is already underway, and we’re excited to see what’s next from these versatile flying robots.