Drones are taking off at construction sites across the U.S., but their use is not yet widespread among contractors. The technology can drastically improve the way companies estimate and monitor jobsites.

Engineering News-Record recently hosted a webinar, “Gaining Deep Project Insights From 3D Aerial Imagery.” Three speakers highlighted the recent developments for using drones in construction work.

Drones have only recently been introduced into construction development, but they have already changed the game for many companies. David Epps, the director of construction at Winter Construction, said drones can be used on virtually any project, both high rise and low rise. Drones can map out an existing project, or help architects to map out new projects. Epps said that one of the most requested features from drones is progress videos that builders can give to their clients. This gives them an aerial play-by-play, so they can see the whole project from start to finish. With today’s technology and the precise laser scanners on the drones, drone mapping is actually more accurate than Google, according to Epps. Drone mapping allows builders to take accurate measurements, using the exact volumes and sizes of the project site based on the videos or pictures.

The images gathered from drones can also be manipulated. Epps said that builders can put their blueprints on the maps as overlays, so they can see exactly how the project will work in that spot. This allows builders to understand the logistics of the building, before beginning construction.

By using augmented reality, builders can also show customers exactly what their finished project will look like. This allows for builders and customers to work together on the project before construction begins, and to find flaws ahead of time.

Bryan Hastings, a VDC technician with AECOM Hunt, reiterated much of Epps’ findings. He added that during projects, the images from drones can allow builders to estimate erosion, and even to prepare for future erosion. He said that using drones is the most efficient way to plan a construction project.

Eatay Ben Shecter, the director of production with Skyline Software Systems Inc., added that his company is improving the quality and connectivity of the drone imaging. Originally a video game developer, Skyline now focuses on mapping. Their mapping is widely available, and is cloud connected. They allow developers to see how different elements will affect their jobsite. They can see shadow analysis, noise, pollution, air pollution and traffic conditions all specific to their location.

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