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Behind the lens-What drones do beyond images

Frequently used to capture images and videos to show clients and use in marketing materials, drones are becoming more commonplace on job sites, with 57% of respondents to a recent JBKnowledge 2018 ConTech survey indicating their firms use the technology. Beyond capturing images and video footage, however, drones have tremendous data-collecting capability.

According to DroneDeploy, construction is the fastest-growing commercial industry adopting drones, with use surging 239% in the past year, with project and technology managers and superintendents reaping the most benefit from drone data.

Jordan Olson, virtual design coordinator for Brasfield & Gorrie in Birmingham, Alabama, recently indicated in a Construction Dive survey that the firm flies drones over sites to compile a database of pictures that then are processed into a 3D site model. “We can then use that site model for a variety of purposes, such as project rendering, cut/fill analysis, or simple owner communication,” Olson wrote.

Hensel Phelps thinks drones are a valuable tool in its construction business. Its initial drone launch in 2015 began as a way to replace costly helicopter flights to capture marketing site footage. The program since has expanded to include drones with LiDAR sensors, which improve surveying efficiency and accuracy, as well as infrared thermal sensors to find HVAC energy-efficiency opportunities, capture cloud points that then incorporate into BIM and photogrammetry capabilities to monitor sites and provide information about job progress.

Other perks of drones, according to BigRentz, which rents equipment to a variety of industries, including the automation and tracking of equipment, security surveillance capabilities, and monitoring of the safety of onsite personnel.

How drone data boosts business

In a recent webinar titled “How to Win More Business with Drone Data,” Hugh McFall, product marketing manager for drone software company 3DR, outlined four ways drone data can help businesses:

1. Provide more accurate, transparent estimates

Drones can help create accurate pre-construction topographic surveys so companies need not rely on satellite imagery or bring in a third-party surveyor and then have to wait for the results. This information also can help subcontractors better prepare their estimates.

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