Drones have risen in popularity immensely over the past few years. They have a wide range of applications, from recreational use to the advancements of many industries.
Beginning in the fall of 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration began accepting applications from companies to use drones for business reasons. In any situation that includes business being conducted in civil airspace, the operation must meet certain safety requirements. As such, without an exemption granted by the FAA, companies are not allowed to use the technology for commercial purposes because there is not yet a law that addresses the situation.
According to the FAA, the agency is in the process of creating a rule that will allow use of some drones that meet certain size and weight requirements. However, until that rule exists, the only way companies can use drones for business purposes is to get an exemption under Section 333, or to get an airworthiness certificate.
Construction Firms Adopt Drones
While the process of getting an exemption might be a nuisance for companies, it has also provided the FAA with some insight as to what various industries are using the drones for. One of the biggest users of the technology is the construction industry. As of Jan. 20, 2016, more than 3,000 exemptions had been granted, according to data from the FAA. Of those, 1,496 went to construction businesses.
“Nearly half of exemptions for drone use went to construction companies.”
While one might guess that high-tech, high-profit companies would be first in line to take advantage of this advanced technology, this isn’t the case. More than 1,200 of the 1,423 companies that received the exemption were construction firms with less than $1 million in revenue, and more than 1,000 had fewer than 10 employees. An additional 207 were individuals.
California, Florida and Texas have been approved the most exemptions, according to FAA data. The states have been granted 160, 143 and 127 exemptions, respectively. In comparison, the state coming in fourth is Colorado with 53.
There are a wide variety of uses for drones in the construction industry, which is likely why so many companies have applied for the exemption. The small but versatile machines can also accomplish some tasks that a person may have been asked to do, giving companies the ability to accomplish more with fewer people, or complete a potentially dangerous task without endangering someone’s safety.
For instance, the Associated General Contractors of America listed on the FAA’s website that a drone can take aerial photos of work being completed on a roof, tall walls or other high-up projects that a person could not have safely viewed.
From that height, drones can also get a good view of a larger work site as a whole. That information can help contractors plot out safe paths through the construction zone, and to determine which areas should be barricaded off to minimize safety hazards.
By using an aerial photo taken by the drone to plot out a worksite, the construction firm also has the advantage of making it as efficient as possible. The new point of view could enlighten them to an arrangement they may not have thought of before.
Dronethusiast pointed out that drones can also be used to save a contractor some time and energy. It’s always important for the contractor to know what the progress is in all areas of a project being completed. But when the project encompasses multiple job sites, it can take a good chunk of time out of the workday to commute from one site to the other. A drone can collect visual information for the contractor so he or she can make sure everything is more or less on track, without having to jump in the car and drive over to it.
Plus, if the drone captures an aspect of the project that is falling behind, the contractor can address the issue immediately. In the world of construction, there are times when things don’t go as planned. In these instances, the sooner the problem is noticed, the better.
When working on a project, it’s important to keep the client updated on the progress. Some clients might get nervous or impatient during the construction process, and thorough updates help to keep them calm. Plus, accurate updates allow them to plan out their use of the building or structure being built. If there are delays, they can adjust their business accordingly. Drones can provide the client with images that the construction firm wouldn’t have otherwise been able to capture.
Construction can be a dangerous job at times, and because of this, there are plenty of safety standards in place to protect workers. Drones provide another set of eyes on the jobsite from a new perspective that can potentially identify unsafe situations before someone on the ground can.
Beyond safety compliance rules, there are also environmental compliance standards companies need to adhere to. Drones can photograph the ways in which the company is staying within the guidelines.
As drone technology continues to improve, additional uses for them may arise. For instance, tools and materials needed for a project high above the ground can be flown to a worker using a drone. In some ways, drones may be able to replace cranes, which take up ample groundspace and can be cumbersome.
Keep Drones Safe
As more construction companies continue to use drones in their daily operations, they will want to consider how to keep the machines safe. The FAA named the Inspire 1 platform from DJI as the most popular drone for the construction industry. Depending on the model, an Inspire 1 can cost between $3,000 and $6,000. Coming in second is the Phantom 3 platform, also from DJI. While more affordable than the Inspire 1, this platform can still cost a few thousand dollars.
It’s important that these drones be kept safe from thieves, vandals and weather. Mobile Mini’s portable storage for construction can be a big help in this. Instead of transporting the drone back to an office or home at the end of every workday, risking damage during the commute, it can be kept in a secure storage container right on the jobsite.
Mobile Mini containers are weather resistant and feature the company’s patented Tri-cam Locking system, which will keep anything inside safe and secure.