Accurate Land Surveying, Inspection and Mapping

Construction Drones

Increasing efficiency in the construction industry

Drones in Construction

Drones are becoming a staple tool on construction sites.

Construction is curently one of the fastest-growing commercial adopters of drones, for many reasons.

Drone data can benefit construction firms in multiple ways. It can be collected safely, quickly, and accurately to help companies keep track of their on-site progress, streamline communication and decision-making, spot for errors, build detailed maps and 3D models, and keep on-the-ground staff away from dangerous areas.

Deploying drones for construction can save hundreds of thousands of pounds during a project life cycle and can be far more efficient than traditional methods - taking a matter of hours to collect data, instead of days, in some cases.

Construction Use Cases

Drones are a versitile tool in the construction industry

Drones can be used on construction sites for a range of tasks. These include:

  • Initial Site Survey/Measurements: Evaluate large worksites and provide detailed, precise data for architects and contractors before stepping foot on site. This gives businesses the competitive edge from as early as the bidding process.
  • Construction Mapping/Modelling: Drone data can be converted into detailed maps and 3D models to help with project tracking and accurate measuring of distances, surfaces, elevations, and volumes.
  • Progress Monitoring: Access real-time aerial data to understand what is happening on site. This is ideal for progress tracking and spotting mistakes early before they become too costly.
  • Inspection: Inspect roofs or building façades, and collect a wealth of information with zoom or thermal cameras. Drones remove the danger of manual data collection and are a far more efficient way of collecting this information.
  • Security/Maintenance: Drone imagery can highlight any on-site issues, such as a damaged section of perimeter fence. A drone with a thermal camera can spot issues such as an over-heating tank, which could be missed with the naked eye.
  • Access hard-to-reach areas: Drones remove the need for staff on-the-ground to clamber over potentially dangerous stockpiles, venture into hard-to-reach areas, or clamber up scaffolding. This improves job-site safety.

Our Partners and Clients

"Because of drones and their associated software, data can be collected from a site in half an hour, compared to three days using traditional hand-held methods.

Drones enable firms to create highly accurate maps and point clouds, discover costly job-site mistakes, and predict schedule delays, saving up to tens of thousands of pounds per week.”

Richard Clement

Komatsu

Drones Can Save housands Of Pounds

Deploying drones for construction increases efficiency

Cost Savings

Real-time drone data yielded 75% cost savings for Chasco Constructors on $29m project.

Efficiency

"Using drones, we can take weeks out of the schedule," - Brasfield & Gorrie.

Quality Data

One survey showed 56% of people use drones in construction for improved data quality.

Reduced Risk

"Drones help with safety, taking people out of dangerous situations," - Balfour Beatty


"When drones were introduced, we knew right away they would be the perfect tools for our job sites. We could use drones to create orthomosaics and videos for better site planning, management, and monitoring. In large sites, we could easily identify strategic zones such as laydown areas or delivery rows. We could even capture site progress photos for project owners, speeding up the process of getting the spends approved from investors and financial institutions.”

Richard Lopez, Virtual Design and Construction Manager, Hensel Phelps.

Drones for Construction

Solutions for mapping, surveying and inspection.

DJI Matrice 300 RTK is a rugged and heavy-duty commercial drone platform which can be integrated with Zenmuse L1 LiDAR sensor, Zenmuse P1 45MP photogrammetry sensor or DJI Zenmuse H20T thermal camera.

DJI Mavic 3 Enterprise is a compact and portable mapping drone with a mechanical shutter, DJI TimeSync and RTK module for accurate surveying.

GNSS Equipment
                     

Surveying Software

Turn your data into digital assets

Benefits of Construction Drones

Constructions drones increase efficiency and safety on the job site.

Optimise Project Management

'A Drone Photo Is Potentially Worth Millions Of Dollars'

Drones provide a bird’s-eye view of a construction site, providing full-site awareness through regular shareable site maps.

As Ryan Moret, of McCarthy Building Companies, says: "Drones change the game in communication. A drone photo is worth a thousand words, and potentially millions of dollars."

Having access to overhead views of a site helps teams track site progress over time; ideal for checking timescales and making sure the project hits deadline.

An overhead view can also be used to spot any mistakes or problems. This means that issues can be identified far quicker than relying on traditional methods and can be acted upon before it is too late - saving time and money. These images can be used in CAD overlays, putting original designs on top to spot for any errors and identify if the project is deviating from initial proposals.

Aerial data also makes it incredibly simple to communicate across the construction site, keeping staff up to date with the current state of play, and enabling stakeholders to stay in the loop. As an added bonus, staff, decision-makers, and stakeholders can access this information remotely, without having to set foot on site.

Drone imagery reduces guesswork or misinterpretation, which can lead to costly errors. Having such a great visual representation of a site is invaluable for project management and subcontractors.

Having aerial drone footage is also essential for increasing safety, as colleagues do not need to venture onto a dangerous job site to gain an overview of the project development.

"When you have this documented site progress, you are able to go back in time and look at what was going on at any point in time. You can say ‘why are we having this issue over here? What pipes did I lay in that trench?' That progress is locked in digitally and you can go backwards and forwards.  No longer do you have to rely on interpreting some notes on a bit of a paper - using the drone data gives you a clear and precise picture.”

Jono Millin, co-founder and CCO, DroneDeploy

Enhanced Efficiency

Drones Can Be 8x More Efficient For Inspection

Construction projects can run over-budget and behind schedule. But drones help close that gap.

Drones are far more efficient than traditional methods - saving time, and ultimately money.

Thanks to drone technology, accurate data can be collected in a single flight, shaving many hours off manual on-the-ground methods. And in one single flight, a drone can capture a wealth of information which can be used across a job site and throughout a project life cycle.

After all, why walk around a job site - which is time-consuming, labour-intensive, and dangerous - collecting various images or multiple data points, when a drone can do it for you in a fraction of the time, and without the added risk?

As Vaiko Veeleid, CEO of Estonian surveying company, Hades Geodeesia, says: "It doesn’t make sense to go outside and walk for four hours and get about 500 points and make calculations. Instead, I can take the drone and fly for a half an hour, process the data, and I get the same or better results than the ordinary way."

Drones can also increase efficiency when it comes to job-site inspection, capturing high-quality aerial imagery, rapidly and safely.

Building inspections often require teams to use manual, rope-access techniques which require walking across rooftops and scaffolding, which is time-consuming, costly, and dangerous.

But drones can be integrated with high-class zoom and thermal cameras which can capture accurate data in a single flight, helping to detect physical, water or electrical damage on roofs and facades. A drone's real-time video transmission also supplies this information on-demand - helping with quicker decision-making, all while staff remain safely on the ground.

"We saw what was a two-to-three week and several tens of thousands of dollars process become a one-to-four-day process with only a couple of thousands of dollars invested in equipment and software. When you’re looking at a dramatic 75% or greater cost and time improvement, it is really powerful."

Hunter Cole, Innovation and Operational Technology, Brasfield and Gorrie General Contractors

Drones Reduce On-Site Risk

Drones remove ground staff from hazardous areas

Construction sites can be dangerous places and the risks are everywhere.

Figures released by the HSE showed that 40 construction workers died in 2019-20 - with the fatality rate sitting around four times higher than the all-industry rate.

And the three most common causes were workers falling from height, being struck by a moving vehicle, and being hit by a moving object.

This is why drones are becoming a more and more important tool for construction. By deploying drones on a job site, staff on the ground are removed from potentially dangerous areas. The benefits of using UAS include:

  • Staff no longer have to climb over stockpiles to collect quantities - a drone will do it for you.
  • Staff do not need to enter certain areas of a job site, risking collisions with vehicles and tackling tough and dangerous terrain - a drone will do it for you.
  • Staff do not need to work at height, climb onto scaffolding, use rope-access methods, or try to access awkward inspection locations - a drone will do it for you.
  • Staff do not need to be placed at risk when trying to detect hazardous materials - a drone can do it for you.
  • Staff do not need to risk being hit by falling debris - a drone will collect the data you need for you.
  • Staff do not need to access all parts of a site to lay ground collection points (GCP) for surveying - a drone with PPK/RTK capabilities dramatically reduces the number of GCPs needed.

When safety is a top priority, using drones should be an essential component of a company's technology strategy to mitigate risk.

As the Center for Disease Control states: "Drones could help reduce construction-related injury and death from falls, toxic chemical exposures, electrical hazards, or traumatic injury from vehicle and equipment collisions.”

"If you need an asset inspection, then drones can take high-definition photos and can use zoom cameras which show you the condition of a property. This is perfect for roofs and other hard-to-access areas. We supply high-definition photographs or 4K videos of any infrastructure that needs to be checked for damage. By using a drone, you negate the need for elevated work platforms or scaffolding, reducing costs, time and most importantly, risk."

Quinton Quayle, Quayle Industries

Digitise your Job Sites

Turn your drone mapping data into 3D models and 2D maps.

Drones allow constructors to digitise their job site, providing a range of deliverables that can be used for analysis, evaluation, and decision-making.

Drones can collect a multitude of information in just one flight, including visual imagery and geo-referenced data which can be processed into accurate maps and models.

2D Map / Orthomosaic

A drone can capture hundreds or thousands of digital photos which can be used to produce high-quality 2D orthomosaic maps.

This provides a real-world view, helping rapid decision-making and analysis of how a project is progressing.

These images can also be overlaid on projected designs and on blueprints to serve as a visual communication tool, site documentation, and spot any mistakes.

Each pixel contains 2D geo-information (X, Y) and can directly procure accurate measurements, such as horizontal distances and surfaces.

3D Reconstructions

By utilising drone imagery, construction professionals can build 3D reconstructions of a site, or certain parts of it.

3D models are ideal for job-site inspection and to visualise how buildings or structures will look in the real world. Interactive maps even allow observers to see a 360° view of these reconstructions.

3D models are valuable for visual inspection or for when external stakeholder input or public involvement is essential.

3D data also allows for the creation of Digital Surface Models (DSM), Digital Elevation Models (DEM), or Digital Terrain Models (DTM).

Volumetric Surveys

Drones can be used to create volumetric models, useful for stockpile measurements, for instance.

Balfour Beatty has used drones for volume calculations of stockpiles and proven how effective UAS can be for this application.

In Balfour Beatty's experience, traditional handheld methods can take a surveyor a day, but a drone can collect this data in 15 minutes and a model can be processed in two hours - resulting in huge efficiency gains.

As well as volume surveys, drone data can be used to measure distances, surfaces, and elevations.

Thermal Imaging Survey

A thermal camera survey can uncover or diagnose issues that haven't yet manifested themselves physically.

Thermal cameras can identify issues such as heat loss; water leaks or moisture ingress; faults with wiring and other electrical components; faults in mechanical components, including overheating; overall performance and leaks in underfloor heating pipes; and the success of energy efficiency improvements.

LiDAR Point Cloud

A LiDAR point cloud can be crucial for construction and infrastructure projects - helping to build 3D models and digital twins which are ideal for BIM applications.

These digital models can be used throughout the life cycle of a scheme, allowing teams to scan for quality assurance, cross-check models and spot errors before they become a problem, conduct stockpile volumes, and monitor the progress of a development.

Visual Imagery

Drones can be used for visual surveys. Top-quality aerial imagery is ideal for inspections, checking for defects, and tracking progress.

Using a drone to do this is more efficient, cheaper and safer than traditional methods.

Because a drone is a cheap and precise way of collecting visual data, it is possible to carry out regular visual surveys.

Case Studies

Clients and case studies using drones for construction

Balfour Beatty Deploys Drones On Motorway Scheme

Balfour Beatty utilised drones - including the DJI Phantom 4 RTK - during a £212million Smart Motorway upgrade on the M6.

The international infrastructure group used UAS for quicker stockpile measurements, informative aerial progress reports, and accessing hard-to-reach areas.

Using drones helped the company enhance safety, increase efficiency, gather data faster, improve asset productivity and gain high-accuracy results.

Drones have shown their worth when it comes to measuring stockpile volumes; not only do they help with efficiency, but they also improve safety.

Read the case study

"The drones are a great time saver. Take the recycling compound for example. If we were to measure stockpiles with traditional survey tools, it would take a lot longer to measure the site and gather the data, whereas drones enable the team to do fairly rapid measurements of different types of materials and earthworks.”

Craig Matthews, Principal UAS Manager for Balfour Beatty

75% Cost Savings For Chasco Constructors

Texas-based Chasco Constructors used drones to help manage the construction of a major development at the Public Safety Training Center, in Round Rock, Texas. This included a 65,000-square-foot main structure and 10 additional support buildings .

Using drone technology, the company managed to streamline its workflow, finish the project ahead of schedule, and achieve 75% cost savings. 

Chasco Constructors used drones to:

  • Monitor the progress of the work, including monitoring subcontractors, tracking materials and equipment and measuring stockpile volumes;
  • Capture and analyse much more granular site detail than a ground-based survey team could collect;
  • Free-up the surveyors to focus more on what they do best, such as high-precision layout, bluetops and cut sheets for utilities;
  • Collect regular aerial imagery to make high-resolution maps and 3D models of the site. Not only was this good to check site progress, but this data allowed the city council of Round Rock to provide greater transparency to tax-payers on money well spent;
  • Allowed managers to keep a watchful eye on both their own work teams and subcontractors;
  • Identified a potential issue related to excavation for a roadway. This eliminated the mobilisation costs that would have otherwise been required to complete additional site work.

Drones have proved so useful to Chasco, that the company is now using them to help monitor more than 35 job sites throughout Texas.

"The drones are a great time saver. Take the recycling compound for example. If we were to measure stockpiles with traditional survey tools, it would take a lot longer to measure the site and gather the data, whereas drones enable the team to do fairly rapid measurements of different types of materials and earthworks.”

Craig Matthews, Principal UAS Manager for Balfour Beatty

Drones Are Efficient Tools For Construction

STRABAG is using the DJI Phantom 4 RTK on a construction project to widen Germany’s A3 highway near the city of Würzburg.

The team has been deploying drones to efficiently survey the site - enabling them to plan and track progress accurately.

The improvements are being implemented across multiple kilometres of the highway, over complex terrain with steep slopes and numerous bends. Using drones help to reach these areas, quickly and safely.

Thomas Gröninger, at STRABAG, says: "Drones are proving to be very efficient tools in the construction industry and I am convinced that they will be integrated more and more in construction processes on the international stage."

The company has benefited from the DJI Phantom 4 RTK for numerous reasons. These include:

  • Reduction in ground control points: Previously, the team had the lengthy task of setting out up to 40 GCPs per square kilometre. Thanks to the Phantom 4 RTK, this is reduced to only 3-5 (or even zero in same cases) per square kilometre - saving at least 75% in GCP set-up time.   
  • More efficient: With a flight time of up to 30 minutes, the surveying team has used the Phantom 4 RTK  to capture a large amount of data in just one flight. The drone can also fly at a consistent height across complex terrain for repeatable results.
  • Multiple Insights: Thanks to the data collected by the drone, the team has been able to conduct volume calculations, build terrain models, and monitor project progress. It has meant that they can receive the necessary models and information according to their project requirements.
“STRABAG seeks to expand drone usage for construction projects globally. The DJI Phantom 4 RTK is an easy-to-use and versatile drone with integrated RTK network functionalities. This combination will allow STRABAG to equip more teams with drones to make construction surveying workflows quicker and more efficient The DJI Phantom 4 RTK is an essential addition to the tool box of the surveyor and will take a major role in the process of digitalising the construction industry.”

Thomas Gröninger, Head of Business Unit Digital Object Survey and UAV, STRABAG. 

Ecosystem

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Drones for Construction FAQs

Answers to your most frequently asked questions.

FAQs

What’s the difference between fixed-wing drones and quadcopters for surveying?

Fixed-wing drones are traditionally better for large-area surveying because of longer flight times, although advancements in multirotor technology, like the release of the DJI M300 RTK, has closed the gap slightly.

In comparison, multirotors tend to be more cost-effective, smaller and easier to transport and manoeuvre during flight. Most surveying multirotors are particularly effective for low-altitude, small area surveying, although the DJI M300 RTK does provide an option for surveying larger swathes of land in one flight.

Depending on the model, fixed-wing and multirotors can have swappable payload capabilities and both can utilise high-resolution mapping cameras.

For an in-depth comparison, read our multirotor vs fixed-wing drones for surveying guide.

FAQs

What is the difference between traditional surveying and drone surveying?

Drone surveying has multiple advantages over traditional surveying, including speed, safety, streamlined project management and automated/repeatable data collection.

However, drones don’t have to take away from traditional methods: Rather than can be used to complement existing workflows. As such, drones will not replace surveyors.

For more details, read our traditional surveying vs drone surveying blog.

FAQs

Why should I use a drone for surveying?

There are a number of reasons why drones are advantageous for surveying, including safe, efficient and accurate data collection.

A drone like the P4 RTK or DJI M300 can collect accurate survey data, faster and more safely than traditional/ground-based methods.

This data can be processed in sophisticated software to create detailed maps and models which can then be used to drive decision-making, spot mistakes, maximise return on investment, keep projects on track and collaborate with staff, stakeholders and the community.

For more information, read our in-depth guide to drone mapping or learn more about heliguy™ survey assist.

FAQs

How accurate is a drone survey?

Surveying drone solutions can produce different degrees of accuracy, depending on the requirements of the project.

In an independent study by DroneDeploy, the DJI Phantom 4 RTK achieved 2cm relative vertical accuracy and 1.20cm relative horizontal accuracy.

An accuracy report with heliguy™ client Terra Drone Europe also showed that the DJI Phantom 4 RTK can achieve 3cm-4cm accuracies without needing to lay any ground control points.

For some applications, like checking crop growth, or construction progress, high relative accuracy is sufficient. For other jobs that also require high absolute accuracy, there are drones equipped with Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) and Post-Processed Kinematic (PPK) capabilities. When paired with a few Ground Control Points, survey-level accuracy can be achieved.

FAQs

Do I need to be a qualified surveyor to operate a survey-grade drone?

No. Both qualified and unqualified surveyors can operate a drone for surveying purposes.

A survey-grade drone operates very similarly to a standard drone, however producing more accurate results which can be used to derive spatial information.

FAQs

What are the laws around using drones for surveying?

Drone surveyors need to abide by UK drone laws. The rules and regulations will depend on the type of drone you are using and where you are planning to use it.

Depending on your requirements, you may require drone training, such as the A2 CofC or GVC.

Read our guide to obtaining a surveying drone licence to understand what training is required and what rules you need to follow.

FAQs

What is the difference between multi-band and single-band RTK GNSS receivers?

There are a number of differences between multi-band and single-band RTK GNSS receivers.

Primarily, single-band receivers can only obtain one frequency band from satellites, whereas multi-band receivers work with several frequency bands.

This has a knock on affect to the performance capabilities of each type of receiver. For instance, multi-band receivers can achieve a fixed position quicker and have a longer baseline (distance between base and rover).

Typically, multi-band receivers are more expensive than single-band receivers.

For an in-depth comparison, read our multi-band vs single-band blog.

Read the blog post 

FAQs

How accurate is drone mapping in construction?

Surveying drone solutions can produce different degrees of accuracy, depending on the requirements of the project. 

In an independent study by DroneDeploy, the DJI Phantom 4 RTK achieved 2cm relative vertical accuracy and 1.20cm relative horizontal accuracy. 

An accuracy report with heliguy™ client Terra Drone Europe also showed that the DJI Phantom 4 RTK can achieve 3cm-4cm accuracies without needing to lay any ground control points.

FAQs

What is the best drone for construction?

This depends on your requirements, but DJI has a comprehensive selection to choose from. The DJI Phantom 4 RTK is a compact and complete low-altitude mapping solution, while drones in the Matrice range offer a rugged and versatile solution, giving operators the choice to integrate different payloads, including zoom and thermal cameras. For a more lightweight solution, drones in the Mavic 2 Series provide a range of options. 

FAQs

What are the benefits of using drones for construction?

Drones have many advantages to users in the construction industry. They increase efficiency and enhance safety, all while collecting accurate data. Construction teams can use this data for a range of purposes, including project updates, spotting for errors, and streamlined communication and decision-making.