Construction worksites still look a lot like they always have: trucks, hardhats and tool belts haven’t changed a lot in the last couple of years. But laptops are now almost as ubiquitous as hammers on the site, and the tools available – including drones –are creating a complete evolution in the industry.
It’s an evolution whose time has come. A 2016 article in Fortune magazine about drones in construction opened with: “The $8.5 trillion global construction industry isn’t exactly known for its efficiency,” and goes on to outline the billions of dollars that the construction industry loses in waste and cost overruns. The industry was ready for change, and they’ve been on the cutting edge of drone adoption – analysts estimate that the construction sector is driving a third or more of drone industry growth.
It’s All About the ROI
Here’s why. For construction companies, drone programs can offer a stunning return on investment, throughout the entire development cycle. From materials sourcing, through the design process to project monitoring and marketing, drones offer advantages: saving time, trimming costs, and anticipating problems.
As the evidence of those returns accumulates, drone technology is becoming an integral part of the entire construction ecosystem. Drones are now used to measure stockpiles of sand, gravel and other materials, offering huge savings in time and effort over traditional methods of measuring piles on foot. This provides for more frequent and accurate measurement, and allows for more accurate pricing of raw materials. Drones provide a significant savings in manpower and time again when it comes to surveying job sites – it’s not only faster and easier to send a drone up to provide survey-grade mapping of a site, the output is often more usable.
New tools are creating new possibilities for the industry. As 3D modeling and topographic mapping get better and easier with drone technology, the construction industry is getting the benefits. New integrations allow drone data to be utilized in well known design tools – making the whole design process more efficient, more elegant, more powerful.
And as large scale construction projects continue to become more global, project management utilizing drone data – easily obtained, easily shared – just makes sense. This idea of an end-to-end data flow is old school in the technology world, but it hasn’t been as easily available, or as usable, to the construction industry before now.
The construction industry hasn’t rushed to jump on every new technology bandwagon. But drone technology provides the real, tangible ROI that has the power to change the way construction works.
The Pieces Are Falling into Place
At Skyward, we say that the at the end of the day, your customers want the job done safely and on time. And as the drone industry evolves, many of the bottlenecks for adoption – difficulty in navigating regulations, finding qualified pilots, managing the operational process – are disappearing. Drone manufacturers, and solutions providers like us, are figuring out what the industry needs and how best to provide it. Drones are getting more autonomous and easier to fly all the time, making it reasonable for an industry expert to get their Part 107 and fly for their company, instead of having to hire a completely new set of resources. Better airspace intelligence tools simplify the regulations, making it easier and faster to navigate federal requirements. And data analysis platforms are figuring out exactly what to deliver, in usable form; because the last thing any worksite needs is more data to work through on their own.
Construction is a big business, and they require enterprise solutions. Their drone programs have to be able to meet enterprise standards for risk management, insurance, and tracking. Customers need to be able to establish a repeatable and reliable process. They need solutions to scale smoothly.
And they need a new technology to make life easier for the crew, not more complicated. As the drone industry moves forward and innovates faster than ever before, those needs – and expectations for return – can be met and exceeded.
A Change in Environment
While products and solutions for the construction industry get better and better, the inevitable shift in environment for enterprise drones is also contributing to evolution in the construction industry. It may be slow, but federal regulations are changing and progress is being made on drone integration. It’s a virtuous cycle: regulations shift, more large industries adopt drone technology, investment in tools and solutions increases also and the entire economic impact grows.
At Skyward, we’re committed to supporting the shift in construction. We’ve worked with our partners at SkyCatch to provide a detailed program guide for construction companies, outlining best practices and providing tools to get started. We’re excited to witness the evolution of an industry – and to be one of the companies providing the right tools for the job.