Drone technology makes sustainable construction possible


The construction industry is bracing for a significant increase in investment with the passage of President Biden’s landmark infrastructure bill. With $ 110 billion set aside for roads, bridges and other major infrastructure projects, contractors and surveyors will undoubtedly be in high demand to manage a range of civilian developments across the country.

While the current administration is determined to fund these crucial projects, at the same time it aims to tackle the climate crisis. In fact, the president has explicitly stated that investing in new roads and bridges will focus on “climate change mitigation, resilience, equity and security” for all. He even set a target for the United States to achieve a 50 to 52 percent reduction in net greenhouse gas pollution from 2005 levels by 2030.

These two objectives may at first glance seem contradictory. For example, reports showed that building materials and construction account for around 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, almost all construction activities require the use of diesel equipment, which is known to cause side effects on the surrounding environment.

However, we simply cannot afford to abandon these new developments at the risk of hampering long-term environmental goals. Particularly in rural areas, building bridges and roads in the immediate future will be key to improving the safety of communities, as many still depend on very limited roads to transport basic resources and emergency supplies.

So how can we ensure that this increase in construction does not move us further away from our climate goals? We can start by implementing sustainable practices on each site and using new technologies as the cornerstone of this transition.

Technology to the surveyor’s rescue

Entrepreneurs today are very open to how technology can play a key role in their projects. In recent years, drones, and more specifically drone surveying technology, have been instrumental in streamlining large-scale developments, deployed during the pre-planning and estimation phases, as well as throughout of the project.

Although the industry has primarily relied on tools such as theodolites to perform field surveys manually, this method is tedious and can take weeks for large-scale construction projects. And even after the initial data collection is complete, teams can take weeks to aggregate and process that information before they can begin the creation process.

Alternatively, drone surveying offers a certain level of efficiency and precision that is not always possible when using traditional surveying methods, and this efficiency naturally lends itself to accelerated project deadlines and less expensive and more sustainable sites.

In terms of mechanics, drone surveying typically involves the use of aerial drones with sensors pointing downward to capture images of the jobsite from different angles. Each image is labeled with the corresponding coordinates, so surveyors have a quick reference point for the duration of the project. Drones can also capture up to thousands of topographic survey points on a large jobsite, equipping contractors with comprehensive data sets to speed up the planning process.

In addition to speeding up the actual survey schedule, the use of drones to collect and aggregate site information means that this data can be quickly shared and easily accessed by the entire site planning team.

Efficiency promotes sustainability

While developers are already saving time and money with the latest surveying technology, they can use this technology to effectively reduce their project’s impact on the environment and conserve surrounding resources.

Minimize the impact on intact environments

Traditional surveying processes require construction crews not only to cut sight lines, but also to make room for larger survey crews and additional equipment. Alternatively, drones can be launched from almost anywhere, meaning the surrounding environment is not unnecessarily disturbed.

In turn, entrepreneurs can reduce their project’s impact on trees, plants and other wildlife and effectively comply with land use regulations. This kind of precision hasn’t always been easy or possible when moving large amounts of earth, but drone surveying has paved the way for preserving environments intact without overloading individual crew members.

Reduce rework

When work is done poorly on construction sites, whether due to poor communication, changing regulations or other factors, companies must push back project deadlines and allocate even more money and resources. to rework. In fact, they found that over 30% of construction work on an average project is likely related to rework, compromising efficiency, wasting resources, and increasing costs.

Through the use of drone technology, field engineers can track work progress and monitor these inconsistencies much more effectively. This allows them to spot problems early on, reduce overall rework, and conserve materials and fuel consumption.

Tracking work progress has traditionally been a labor-intensive endeavor, with contractors having to make manual site visits to catalog progress in physical logs or individual devices that may not allow easy sharing with project stakeholders. Since drone data is designed to be widely shared, communication between teams can be streamlined. shows that poor communication and poor project data account for 48% of all reshuffles at U.S. construction sites, and both of these issues can be alleviated through the use of drone technology.

Reduce fuel consumption

The use of diesel and the fuel consumption of construction machinery can have a significant impact on the environment, increasing greenhouse gas emissions and potentially polluting the surrounding area. For example, an excavator burns up to an hour on average, while scrapers can burn up to 16 gallons per hour. Not to mention that fuel costs are generally the second highest expense on construction sites, only after wages. Moreover, even a single bulldozer can produce as many particles as.

To minimize the environmental impact of fuel consumption, contractors can use data from drones to efficiently send heavy machinery to the job site. Since drones can accurately measure different areas for a project during the planning process, contractors are able to prevent earthmoving equipment from making unnecessary trips around the job site or staying idle with engines running too much. long time. In this way, companies can reduce carbon emissions and simultaneously reduce overall fuel costs.

Identification of potential dangers

In the same spirit of streamlining workflows and improving efficiency, drones can improve jobsite safety by identifying risks and hazards even before the team’s first day on the job. By incorporating this step into the pre-planning process, teams can be fully prepared to bypass these dangers and prevent projects from being delayed.

Locating potential hazards, such as underground utilities, not only ensures the safety of individual workers during the construction phase, but also helps eliminate rework, reduce fuel waste, and preserve much-needed materials.

The future is bright

It’s no secret that even greater strides can be made to improve sustainability in the construction industry, but the good news is that new technologies are available and can have a significant impact when they are developed. is about preserving resources, eliminating environmental impacts and improving efficiency. Deploying drones and drone surveying technologies is just one of the many ways entrepreneurs can work to align their development plans with environmental goals, as well as play a key role in protecting the planet. . Now is the time to implement these technologies, and the industry is just getting started.

Rory San Miguel is the CEO and co-founder of Sydney-based Propeller Aero, which provides cloud-based data visualization and analysis to work sites. Every day, thousands of mining, aggregates, waste management and construction operations professionals around the world trust Propeller to capture, analyze and share precise data about their jobsites and assets.


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