I love talking about how companies are putting drones to work on the job site. As Skyward’s Sr. Product & Airspace Analyst, I’m constantly researching drones and how different companies use them. It’s remarkable how diverse companies’ use cases are.

Last week, I joined a webinar with some of my teammates to chat about the use cases for drones in the construction and engineering industry. We discussed best practices for the job site and what it takes to launch a successful drone program. We also talked about some of Skyward’s customers in the construction industry and how they’re using drones to save time and improve safety.

Our attendees submitted some great questions, and I wanted to highlight a few of them here. For more Q&A, you can watch the recording of the webinar.

Question: What are some common use cases for drones on a construction site?

There’s no shortage of ways that an eye in the sky can help when it comes to construction. From data collection and mapping to safety and environmental monitoring, drones fly all types of missions on the job site. Here are a few:

  • Mapping and photogrammetry in 2D and 3D
  • Surveys of building sites
  • Inspections of infrastructure and workplace safety
  • Progress photos and marketing videography
  • Volumetric stockpile calculations
  • Live-streamed walkthroughs

For more, you can check out this fact sheet from Skyward with additional construction and engineering use cases for drones.

Question: What types of payloads and sensors are frequently used on construction sites?

The drone and payloads you choose will really depend on the data you want to capture. For most mapping missions, including photogrammetry, you just need a standard camera to collect the images you need. Most camera drones today can be pretty high resolution, and they’re also good for taking progress photos and filming walkthroughs.

For inspections, companies often add a thermal camera so they can tell if things are operating within set standards. These infrared cameras are able to capture data outside the visual spectrum that your eye or a regular camera aren’t able to see, offering insights you may not be able to uncover with a visual inspection.

If you have a larger drone and need detailed maps and models, you may want to consider a LiDAR system. LiDAR allows you to create ultra-high resolution 3D point clouds for advanced mapping and modeling, but the system is a heavier payload and costs quite a bit more than the other sensors I mentioned.

Question: What is the typical up-front investment required to stand up a drone program with a drone and a few pilots?

The amount you have to invest depends on what you’re trying to do with your program and what use cases you’re trying to fly. There are a lot of factors to consider, such as whether your employees have any existing experience with drone operations or whether you’ll need to invest in training. And as discussed in the previous question, the cost of the drone and sensors you choose varies with the type of data you want to gather.

Skyward offers a Quick-Start Package to help companies build drone programs from the ground up. Last year, we helped construction company Moss and Associates launch a program with Quick-Start, and they’re seeing ongoing success. You can take a look at our pricing, and we’d be happy to set up a consultation to discuss your needs.

Question: In the webinar, you mentioned that one of your customers live streamed video from a drone. What app did they use?

That’s correct — our customer Brasfield & Gorrie used a drone to do a site walkthrough with customers who could not be onsite due to concerns around COVID-19. Brasfield & Gorrie used Unleash live, one of Skyward’s partners, to live stream the drone’s footage to customers, allowing them to fly alongside project managers as they walked through the construction progress.

If you’re interested in learning more about Unleash live, let us know! We would love to talk to you about implementation. 

Question: You mentioned that Skyward offers live flight tracking. How does this bring value on a construction site?

Live Flights is one of Skyward’s newer features, and it’s one we’re excited about. There are three main ways live flight tracking can prove valuable to a construction company.

First, you may have multiple drones operating in one area. You may have one drone monitoring the site, and another surveying or inspecting a structure. If it’s a high rise, it might not always be easy to look around and see if anybody else is flying. In a worst-case scenario, this could lead to a collision. When you use Skyward InFlight, live flight tracking can show you where all your company’s drones are flying, with the information appearing on the same ground control station you’re using to pilot your drone.

Second, Live Flights also gives a program manager the ability to see flights happening across multiple construction sites. That means a manager back at the office can check in on their drone operations without having to be present in the field. And with many of us working from home with dispersed teams, being able to track flights remotely has proven to be quite beneficial.

Third, Live Flights serves as the foundation for Skyward’s future implementation of remote identification. Live flight tracking provides greater situational awareness today, and we’ll build on it over time. One day, we think it will lead toward Universal Traffic Management, a system that will allow all types of aircraft to be able to share airspace safely. 

Want to learn more about setting up drones at your construction or engineering firm?

Download our guide Drones in Construction for best practices, tips, and advice on setting up a program.

Skyward Drones in Construction eBook