Flying Drone on construction site.

Drones are becoming ubiquitous in daily life, particularly because of new Federal Aviation Administration rules that allow for their commercial use. One such application where drones are delivering tremendous value is to construction sites. No matter how big or small, a construction site is an incredibly dynamic environment and drones are becoming increasingly important tools for managing site activity. On construction sites, old structures are torn down, land is excavated and other holes filled in, heavy equipment prepares the land for development, building materials are delivered, and new buildings are constructed. With all this activity, real-time aerial presence has proven its usefulness for tracking site progress and managing site issues.

Drones, officially termed Unmanned Arial Vehicles or UAVs, are employed on construction sites from the first site survey all the way to final site inspection. They are being used by contractors, architects, engineers, consultants, insurance representatives, and builders. Drones are helping construction managers track the employment and location of key construction assets. They are providing safety inspectors’ visibility of potential hazards and assisting access to hard-to-reach locations. They help site inspectors achieve higher levels of safety and productivity.

One such company that is leading in the innovative employment of drones on construction sites is kespry, which recently announced a strategic alliance with John Deere whereby the drone technology will help land developers capture topographic data in mere minutes. Aerotas, a consulting company, is also innovating in this space by helping companies creatively employ drones in support of their daily tasks.

Drones are also finding wide applications in storm water pollution prevention planning (SWPPP) and site compliance inspections. The aerial photos drones are able to capture provide SWPPP planners with the most current overhead imagery used to create highly customize prevention plans. Once work begins on the site, drones can be used for site inspections and monitoring. UAV technology can produce powerful and accurate survey deliverables to include ortho-photos, high-resolution 3D models, and digital surface maps, all of which are critical for evaluating the potentiality of storm water runoff. Site inspectors can use drones to photograph deficiencies that can then be shared with the client. They can also help document the proper implementation of SWPPP measures that support a clients’ compliance effort.

Drone regulations are rapidly changing in favor of broad commercial employment. The legal status of commercial drone operations have been clarified, their costs have decreased substantially and their performance capabilities have increased widely. If you intend to use drones on your work site, here are some best practices to keep in mind:

    -Have properly trained and certified operators
    -Develop flight plans for safety and consistency
    -Check for proper operation of equipment
    -Follow FAA rules
    -Do not operate out of line of site
    -Use during non-peak hours, when the crew is not present, as the drone may serve as a distraction.

Drones can be very beneficial on construction sites in the areas of surveying and mapping and in particular, conducing SWPPP planning and site inspection. As the use of drones increase, environmental compliance companies will remain on the leading edge of their innovative employment.