THE SKY’S THE LIMIT: CONSTRUCTION AND THE FUTURE OF DRONE TECH

While drone photography and filming seems to have taken over the Internet, and drones continue to buzz through the news on a regular basis, the real potential of the drone has yet to be realized.

The international banking firm Goldman Sachs recently listed the eleven ways that drone tech will change the world, and the construction industry was number one. Cinematography, which we currently see as the biggest market for drone insurance, was listed at eleventh. That indicates how much change is about to occur – and how relatively untouched the construction industry currently is.

Commercial mapping and surveying makes up 12 per cent of our applicants for drone insurance, while commercial aerial inspection makes up 14 per cent. Those numbers have been on a slight incline, though commercial photography and filming sill make up a bulk – over half – of all applications.

Drones are on the rise.

While the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) in the States only recently announced rules around commercial use for UAVs, Transport Canada has allowed for commercial drone use with a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) for some time now. As of June 2016, Transport Canada has issued 3,000 permits for commercial drone applications. That’s more than all of 2015 combined, when they issued 2,500 permits. To put those numbers in perspective, the regulatory agency issued only 345 in 2012 and 66 in 2010. Transport Canada anticipates they will issue 5,000 in 2017.

Drones are already revolutionizing construction.

There are plenty of ways aerial imaging and data are already being used in the construction industry: surveying and planning, construction documentation, safety and inspection, environmental reporting, lead line/cable delivery and positional marking. They can also be useful in volume and planning calculations and thermal calculations.

Advantages to using a drone in construction:

  • Properly mapping out a construction site takes a lot of time, and time is money. Every day spent mapping is another day not building. Drones can do a job in a fraction of the time a team of people could do it, and if needed continue doing it for a realtime mapping as the project proceeds.

  • Drones can map with incredible detail, thanks to their airborne versatility. 3D modeling, contour line maps and progress forecasting models are just a few. Construction companies budget accuracy mistakes into their bids with the assumption that there will be an error somewhere along the line. Drones could drastically reduce or eliminate those errors.

  • The safety component is huge. Rather than sending employees into a risky environment to collect data or perform inspections, drones can serve this purpose.

Each of these aspects will continue to improve with time and testing.

Construction companies that have decided to embrace drone tech are now faced with a decision: bring drone use in-house, or use a service provider.

With technology evolving at such a rapid pace, equipment becomes outdated quickly – possibly before the return is realized. That makes the service provider option particularly attractive. A skilled operator can also reduce the risk of damage or injury.

This is not happening sometime in the distant future

Aerobotika is a company in British Columbia that specializes in geomatics and mapping.

“The unmanned advantage is obvious.” says Aerobotika Operations Manager Kate Kienapple. “It’s not difficult to demonstrate the cost savings and increased safety offered by these systems.” 

Aerobotika both flies aerial services and also trains crews looking to leverage their existing workforce to use this new, remotely piloted tool.

Whether using an in-house drone or contracting a service provider, liability insurance is vitally important, as most commercial general liability policies specifically exclude aviation exposures. Transport Canada requires a minimum of $100,000 liability coverage for all commercial drone users.