While the public awaits the FAA’s proposed new rules easing restrictions on using drones, the number of construction companies applying for and receiving FAA’s “333” exemptions under the current regulations continues to rise. The fact that this exemption requires the operator to have a pilot’s license demonstrates that the value from using drones is worth the trouble and cost. A closer look at the exemption applications themselves (available at the FAA website) shows the major use for the construction industry to be aerial photography for documentation, data collection (including surveying) and inspection.
To date, more than 2,500 exemptions have now been issued, including more than 400 exemptions issued to construction firms, utilities or industry service providers. This includes those specifically offering mapping, surveying, imaging, engineering, geospatial analysis, multi-spectral imagery, photogrammetry services, and data collection and inspection for construction.
In a peer-reviewed paper first presented at the 2015 AACE International Annual Meeting in Las Vegas, ConstructionPro Network’s publisher Paul Levin provides an in-depth look at drone evolution, how they work and more than 30 current usage functions in both construction and project controls support. Their uses include:
- Survey and measurement (laser scanning [LIDAR]),
- Thermal imaging/infrared [FLIR] and other data-capture technology),
- Project controls (documenting daily/weekly progress via aerial photography),
- QA/QC and maintenance inspection (visual inspection of bridges, curtain walls, bottom of excavations and hard-to-access and/or otherwise unsafe locations),
- Safety inspections,
- Production planning,
- Logistics (handling and delivery of tools, parts and materials, particularly on horizontal construction),
- Emergency response assistance and security, and
- Documentation for resolution of claims and change orders.
Two additional drivers of the use of drones include safety and economics. Anything that eliminates the need to put a person on a ladder or in other dangerous situations reduces risks (insurance companies are very fond of that). Users have found drones can be much cheaper and higher quality than using a helicopter for aerial photography.
The paper also provides guidance for development of contract clauses dealing with drones, including operating conditions and applications.
The complete 30-page report is available free to ConstructionPro Network members and is available for purchase for non-members at the ConstructionPro Network bookstore. Click here to access the report.