Five ways drones can help reduce costs and increase efficiency on construction sites
As technology continues to change the construction industry, a potentially dynamic investment companies can make isn’t iron on the ground, but a drone in the sky.
Drones are more accessible than ever with relatively affordable prices and simple operating controls, which make it possible for any organization to start drone operation.
If you’re ready to expand your fleet, here are five ways drones can help reduce costs and increase efficiency on your job sites.
1. Streamline communications
Being able to streamline information and connect your entire staff can help increase your workplace and job site efficiency.
With a timeline function, drones can take photographs from the same coordinates during the duration of a project to provide a timelapse of the progress. This can keep everyone up to date on the project’s status.
“The drone technology allows us to have somebody go out and drone sites two to three times a week,” said Greg Sutton, Vice President of Operations at Aspen Earthworks Inc. in Reno, Nev. “Even if I can’t get out here and see what production has happened on a site, I still feel like I visited the job site through the drone technology.”
2. Spend less time surveying
Depending on the site, conventional surveying can take days — with drones, it can take minutes.
“I think the greatest change after adopting drones or being exposed to drone usage is using the high accuracy survey grade data that they provide,” said Jason Anetsberger, Director of Customer Solutions at Komatsu. “Instead of having to walk a site or drive a site to map it terrestrially, they can now fly the site in a much larger area, in much higher resolution, in much less time, and get a highly accurate survey of that terrain. It has opened a whole new world for contractors to extract value from utilizing a drone.”
A company can quickly and accurately collect objective data of its job site with a drone, and that information can be used to help increase productivity and efficiency in the field.
3. Get accurate material estimates
Having the incorrect number of materials for a project can waste time and money. On construction sites, drones can quickly provide a precise representation of the area, so you can get an accurate estimate of everything you will need for the project.
During a preconstruction flight, you can compare the real site to the engineer’s model, which allows you to fix any miscalculations. By correcting those errors, companies can quickly see a return on investment.
“We had a customer recently who realized they had to move 40,000 cubic yards more than what the engineer quantities were saying they needed to do at the beginning of the job,” said Jim Petry, Construction Project Modeler for Komatsu. “For them, that was a big revelation. That was the first time that they used a drone. They quickly found a lot of value in it. They can see where their cut and fills are on the site, where that is taking place, and if it’s a large site, they can make better decisions on equipment.”
With more accurate measurements in the early stages of projects, companies can adjust their fleets accordingly to help increase production and have more precise data collection throughout the process.
“Komatsu’s Smart Construction Drone has enabled Aspen Earthworks to reach new levels,” said Aspen Earthworks President Ryan Dustin. “With day-by-day information, it’s enabled us to really dial in our estimating and our production rates that I believe have helped put us near the top of our market, and it was incredibly easy to get started. With that moment-by-moment information and real-time data, we can work with our project manager and superintendents to help us reorganize and redo the way we approach our dirt and utilities projects to increase efficacy.”
4. Connect clients to every site
You can also use drone technology to quickly and accurately connect beneficiaries to the job site, which can help save time, avoid future headaches, and secure repeat clients.
“With drones, you can give clients confidence that they’re getting the production that they’re paying for,” said Anetsberger. “That could help contractors secure future business. There’s more trust in that relationship if you’re feeding them near-real-time data or opening a digital twin, so they can follow alongside.”
Plus, drones can reduce the amount of time spent providing documentation for invoices.
“Instead of spending a day doing that conventionally, you’re doing the flight in just a few minutes and can accurately compare that against the last flight to be able to put their invoices forward and get paid as progress moves along,” said Petry.
5. Create dynamic marketing content
Aside from using drones for surveying, they can also be used to collect photographs and videos on job sites, or even at the office, that can be used for marketing, recruitment and public relations campaigns.
The maneuverability of drones can create dynamic photographs and videos that a person on the ground simply cannot easily replicate. Also, you don’t have to cut into your marketing budget for a camera.
While any drone can adequately survey, photograph and record a job site, Anetsberger and Petry recommend a robust model if you want high accuracy with good stability to get the most out of your investment.