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Last edited 06 Oct 2020
Uses of drones in construction
 1. Building surveys
Building surveyors will know that most building surveys require visibility of the buildings roof to identify its condition and assess any defects. In most instances getting access to a roof can be difficult and can involve the erection of a scaffold, use of a cherry picker or ladders. Using a small drone to perform the survey can save time, money and reduce health and safety risks.
Carrying out inspections on a busy construction site can dangerous and complicated. The ability for a drone to carry out a visual inspection of high-risk areas can save time and reduce health and safety risks. Drone footage can be recorded from the safety of the site offices and then sent to project stakeholders in HD.
Site inductions can sometimes be tedious, often involving a pre-scripted talk in the site cabin or a pre-recorded video. Using a drone to fly over the site can show new site operatives health and safety risks in real-time, enabling site managers to demonstrate moving vehicles, moving cranes, active excavation areas and so on.
 4. Maintenance inspections
Carrying out planned or reactive maintenance inspections on high structures such as bridges, towers, roofs and scaffolding, can involve costly access arrangements, and site personnel working at height. Drones can provide a quicker and easier way of carrying out these inspections, feeding back HD real-time footage to the engineer or surveyor on the ground.
 5. Project progress reports
Construction progress reports are often prepared monthly to record site progress against the project programme. These reports often involve the surveyor or contract administrator taking multiple photographs of different parts of the site. A regular drone flight can provide a faster way of recording and visualising project progress. Through a series of aerial shots and HD video, project stakeholders can be given a better insight into the progress that has been made.
 6. Promotional photography
Impressive photography is becoming more important in the way construction organisations promote their business, especially with the emergence of social media. The ability to capture impressive 4K HD video and photos from unique angles can provide an interesting insight into a project or building, ideal for marketing material. In particular, it can be a good tool for estate agents looking to show impressive shots of a property or building they are trying to sell.
 7. Live feed/virtual walk around
When carrying out high-risk work on site it may be necessary for certain professionals to gain real-time updates about what is happening. Utilising First Person View (FPV) technology, a drone camera can stream HD footage to the project team or project stakeholders in real-time. This experience can be enhanced by the use of Virtual Reality (VR) glasses.
 8. Site logistics
Construction sites are ever evolving and activities on-site don't always stick to programme of work as set out in the contract documents. Drones can provide a real-time update of what is going on, giving a good overview of potential issues, such as moving vehicles, machinery, cranes and so on.
 9. Point cloud/laser scanning
It can be hard for surveyors to gain access to a suitable location to laser scan high parts of a building, meaning the point cloud is returned missing vital information. Laser scanning from drones has become a recognised method of capturing the exact detail of topography, buildings and cityscapes and can provide the missing piece to point cloud scan for input into Building Information Models (BIM).
 10. Thermal Imaging recording
Similar to laser scanning, drones can be used to take aerial thermal imaging recordings which can be used to assess potential cold spots in buildings or hot spots in areas holding electrical components. This can give engineers and surveyors essential information when trying to identify and rectify building defects.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Building information modelling.
- Construction drones.
- Drone regulations and safety.
- Global positioning systems and global navigation satellite systems.
- How can drones transform construction processes?
- Interview with David Southam about laser scanning in construction.
- Mitie - drone pest control inspection.
- Paint by drone.
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