When you think of the construction industry, the word “efficiency” probably wouldn’t be one of your first descriptors. The global construction industry is worth as much as $8.5 trillion, and billions of that figure are wasted due to lack of efficient scheduling or purchasing procedures. The American Institute of Architects estimates that building waste accounts for as much as 40% of America’s solid waste stream.

Construction Industry Drone
[Image Credit: DFID / Flickr]
Not only is the construction industry attempting to increase efficiencies to be more environmentally friendly, but also to save time and money. Just a small efficiency saving throughout the industry could save billions each year. Interestingly, one of the top projects that has increased the effectiveness of construction plans and resulted in cost savings has been the use of drones. Here is what you need to know about how drones are being used on today’s construction projects.

How Drones are Used in Construction Industry

Drones are used by engineers, architects, and construction managers to increase efficiencies on major projects. California-based AutoCAD produces software that is used by product and building designers worldwide. Now, those programs can interface with data collected by a drone. A builder can cheaply send up a drone to track the progress of a site and use the data to order materials or re-route other essential resources.

Emerging Startups Related to Drones

There is an emerging market of software that interfaces with the drones to analyze data. A company called Skycatch makes both hardware and software specifically targeted towards the construction industry. Autodesk has wisely chosen to invest an undisclosed sum in this company.

Another company called 3D Robotics is developing a drone that is specially-equipped to scan construction environments and then send the data to the cloud. Autodesk has not only invested in this company, but they have also developed a cloud-based platform, called Forge, that can capture and analyze the data.

Major Construction Projects Involving Drones

Some analysts believe that the construction industry is going to be one of the top drivers for growth in commercial drones soon.  In 2016, Goldman Sachs predicted that the construction industry would spend $11.2 billion on drones over the next five years.

Believe it or not, drones are being used on construction and renovation projects worldwide, sometimes in unlikely places. Mining and natural gas companies use drones to generate detailed topographic data. Drones are used by construction personnel to map and preserve an ancient city in Italy, as well as some of its archaeological remains.

On a more modern project, a drone was recently used to map and verify the progress of a large hospital construction in Apopka, Florida. Using a drone for surveying on the 61-acre Florida Hospital project provided the team with nearly 75%-time savings.

The Legalities of Using Drones in Construction

Drones have become nothing if not controversial. What began as either a toy or a hobby has now grown into a multi-billion-dollar commercial industry that some say threatens the safety and privacy of regular citizens. Drones are now regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and there are certain rules that construction firms must follow if they want to use these handy devices on their job sites.

The FAA has rolled out a new rule called “Part 107,” which governs operating drones beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) or nighttime flying. If you wish to conduct either of these activities, you’ll need to file for a waiver with the FAA. You may also be subject to any state and local drone regulations. Also, any business that wishes to operate a drone is probably going to require a separate form of insurance for these activities.

Drone use in construction is still in its infancy, but the potential for time and cost-savings with these devices is immense. With the supporting software and specialized programs for construction drones, we’ll soon see a drone on every job site.