Drones, also known as ‘unmanned aerial vehicles’ or UAVs, are appearing in many news reports and articles - whether it is due to fantastic aerial images or new and futuristic uses, it is difficult to not have heard of them. Drones are increasingly being bought by hobbyists but their development, led by professionals in a range of industries, is increasingly positioning this technology as a vital tool for many sectors including construction.


Getting a clear picture


Drones are controlled with a remote control and can be fitted with sensors or cameras which help us gather data which would previously have been dangerous or impossible to obtain. We can now get to difficult-to-access areas and carry out inspections via a monitor, or take photographs and film to assess later. There are now many different cameras on the market - High definition (HD) cameras, DSLR cameras, thermal cameras, RGB cameras - all of which enable us to gather vital information, opening the gateway to new uses for this technology.  There are strict legal limits of how, where and how far drones can be flown, but with heights of up to 400 feet, and at a distance 500 metres from the pilot, drones are more than capable of covering any type of job.


Safety first


Working at Height is one of the biggest causes of construction injuries and deaths; according to HSE falls from height were the most common cause of fatalities, accounting for nearly three in ten (29%) fatal injuries to workers (RIDDOR) in 2013/2014. Of the 35 construction workers fatally injured in 2014/2015, 19% are as a result of falls from height.


In 2015/2016, 144 workers were fatally injured across all industries and whilst this figure was lower than previous years due to improved H&S measures, over half of these deaths were caused by trips/falls and falls from height (http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/industry/construction/index.htm)


Drones allow us to visually approach potentially dangerous and unstable areas of a roof, site, factory or building and take photographs which are necessary for inspections. Having to hire scaffolding, cranes or cherry pickers is costly and some sites are even impossible due to health and safety concerns. Drones avoid all the hassle and delays, and the hazards of personnel and public. 


Drones can also be used for checking properties from the ground to see if any maintenance or repair work is required, avoiding the costs of having to hire and erect scaffolding, ladders or lifts. Money saving is perhaps one of the largest advantages of the use of drones and it is also much less intrusive, allowing inspections to be carried out without inconveniencing residents.


Construction Planning and Development 


Drone Aerial Photography offers a fantastic way to document the progress of construction projects – from the air. One of the most impressive applications of drones is providing an aerial perspective of a building project – it is ideal for representing the complexity, scale and layout of large civil engineering projects, its progress and development. Aerial photographs also help show the context of a site within its environment and location.


Furthermore, by taking regular sets of aerial photographs monthly progress reports are a lot more effective and client friendly. The client can build up an aerial portfolio showing how their project is progressing and the construction company can analyse their project from a birds-eye perspective, highlighting potential problems not visible from ground level, or even just to showcase their work.  Even before construction begins drone photographs are useful for planning applications, architectural planning and surveying.



For some great examples of the technology in action, check out the video links below






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