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Technology, Construction - 4 min read

Using Drones for Site Inspections

Jason Hook

Head of Sales and Marketing

Nov 21, 2016 2:16:00 PM

Site inspections can be a time-consuming, labour-intensive and costly process. They can also be highly dangerous and often prove to be ineffective, particularly for larger, more complex sites. However, recent developments in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or drones offer a safer, cheaper and more efficient option for site inspections. 

Below we explore how drones have the ability to transform how your business conducts site inspections.


What are Drones?

Drones are essentially unmanned aircraft. They can be controlled remotely, or can fly “autonomously” using a pre-planned guide accessed from their on-board computers. Originally designed for military operations, they are usually used in situations where having a normal, piloted aircraft would be too “dull, dirty or dangerous.”

These days, civilian-owned drones greatly outnumber those used by the military. And because they are highly reactive and nimble machines, capable of flying at speeds of around 80 km/h for 30 minutes while taking 4K video, their use has expanded widely into different fields. These include commercial, scientific, agriculture, construction, surveillance and aerial photography, among many others.

In the US, there has been a big push for registering drones, with over 300,000 registrations collected by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in January 2016. This is because there is a risk that people will misuse the technology, particularly in areas of privacy. The same is true in Australia. Drone owners here are required to register drones over 2kg in weight with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).


What are the Benefits of Using Drones for Site Inspections? 

There are four main benefits to using drones for construction site inspections: 

  1. Improved safety – Site inspections can be a dangerous business. It often requires large teams to scale land and collect data from highly risky areas. For example, many inspections usually done by humans, such as oil or gas pipelines, forestry work, power lines or radiation measurement, is dangerous work. But by using technological innovations like drones, many of these jobs can be completed to the same standard, without the major health risks. And drone capabilities will only improve with time. 
  1. Saves time – Especially in larger sites, it can take a long time to send teams out to collect data to ensure you’ve got an accurate picture. Drones can dramatically reduce this. An inspection undertaken by Melbourne Water found that it took less than two hours to complete the inspection with the use of a drone, whereas the same job would’ve taken a full day with a team of six. 
  1. Less labour-intensive – Site inspection teams have to be physically fit and willing to risk injury. For example, that same inspection from Melbourne Water required teams to abseil down cliff faces and climbing into sewage facilities. Drones can alleviate this problem because they can fly over and through these areas, without the need for physically exhausting and dangerous work.
  1. Higher quality data – Data can be collected, analysed and shared in real-time. This means that there’s no delay in results and that those workers who would’ve been in the field can spend their time interpreting and preparing a report instead. For the construction industry, this is very important because land can be valued faster and work can be started on time.

Drones are an important technological asset. Their use in the construction industry will only increase in time because they can efficiently collect data of a high standard, greatly minimising risk to the safety of your team.

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