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article imageDrones are helping the construction industry to reach new heights

By Tim Sandle     Jul 11, 2017 in Technology
The building site of the future will look very different. Instead of dozens of men and women in high visibility jackets things will look far more futuristic with drones buzzing overhead, robotic bulldozers and 3D printers churning out new structures.
One of the biggest and more immediate changes affecting construction is the deployment of drones. Drones are being used for aerial reconnaissance so that progress can be tracked; to speed up deliveries; to ‘3D print’ while it is in flight; and to help lay down bricks at height. With the reviews of progress collecting data in real-time is key to managing projects and making adjustments rapidly, to avoid lengthy and costly errors.
One technology company developing drones is the U.S. start-up company Skycatch. One company that has put the Skycatch drones to good use is the Japanese machinery giant Komatsu. Here Skycatch drones have been used to “provide the eyes for automated bulldozers”. The drones collect visual cues and send them to a computer; the computer then programs unmanned diggers to carry out production tasks.
Commenting on the success, Komatsu’s President, Akinori Onodera, enthused: “I’m very excited to be working with Skycatch moving forward...we now have the fastest, most comprehensive aerial data solution out there, which will give our clients a measurable advantage in remotely managing their construction equipment and operations.”
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For the construction industry the drones offer updates on local operation conditions plus intelligent machine control. A second application is with The Beck Group. Grant Hagen, who is the VDC Manager for the group, discusses the use of drones in construction in the video below:
Another company making good use of drones on construction sites is Whitaker Contracting Corporation. A spokesperson for the company, John Davenport explains to the employment site Recode that by using drones he “was able to accurately measure the volumes of stockpiles at one of our quarries in just 10 minutes. Previously, it took me about two days of strenuous GPS work to cross-section those piles.”
Construction cranes work at a building site in Moscow on August 30  2007
Construction cranes work at a building site in Moscow on August 30, 2007
Maxim Marmur, AFP/File
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The Whitaker Contracting Corporation are using a drone system made by Kespry, a California-based drone services company. The service offered by Kespry includes pre-construction topographic surveys, civil survey designs, project earthworks volume tracking, as-built surveys. The data is made available on-line for the client to view.
File photo: A drone flying over a farm
File photo: A drone flying over a farm
Flickr user Lima Pix (CC BY 2.0)
As well as carrying out land surveys and inventor checks, and assessing construction progress from height, things are moving close to drones replacing the traditional trade of brick laying. This technology is being considered by the infrastructure giant Balfour Beatty, according to a report published in The Daily Telegraph.
While drones, together with robots, promise to revolutionize construction the impact of this digital transformation will impact significantly upon traditional forms of employment, says Alison Carnwath, who is the chairman of Land Securities, the multi-billion FTSE 100 construction company. She told The Daily Telegraph: “Businesses are focusing on productivity, they want to reengineer how their people can work, they recognize that technology is upon us and is going to destroy thousands of jobs.”
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