Drone Automation of the Future

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones have so much to offer the construction industry. It is inevitable they will become a game changer (and already are in some segments). In fact, many companies in the construction industry already are using drones. SpawGlass, a Texas-based commercial and civil contractor, has been using drones for more than four years.

Using a drone at a jobsite to periodically make the rounds in a planned and programmed path to record video and photos is no longer left to the imagination; it’s reality. Navigating the path includes using virtual markers called “points of interest.” The camera uses these points of interest to keep itself focused on a specific area while the drone follows the path.

This is a powerful way to automate your flight without a pilot. A flight course can be programmed, saved, and reused simply by telling the drone to rerun that saved mission. This is an example of the trend to use a robotic and programmable approach much more precise than human piloting, producing a smooth and professional motion clip.

A practical use for programmed flights is taking monthly aerial jobsite progress photos, a common contract requirement on many projects. This is easily automated. Once programmed, the camera path and pan/tilt angle is reproduced each time it is flown, giving the same path and showing the continued progress of the project each month (or at whatever interval is preferred).

For mapping, one can take to the air with a drone using software that creates 2D and 3D topographical maps. This provides the ability to make a variety of measurements on the jobsite, including linear, square footage, and volumetric (e.g. cut and fill). Elevation plots can be produced as well. Using software platforms such as DroneDeploy makes the process autonomous. The digital processing for the mapping is done in the cloud and then can be stored and shared.

The processes mentioned here are just a few of the ways drones have changed construction. There are many more uses for drones in the construction industry, and the tools are only getting better!

Richard Evans is a UAV pilot and has been an IT professional with SpawGlass for 15 years.

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