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  • Writer's pictureEr S G Ashok Kumar PMP, IGBC-AP



Drones have gained focus among the both public and private sectors. Practical applications like facility inspection, mapping, surveillance, delivery, etc. have been intensively tested. Overt the last decade, UAV applications in transportation engineering have include d experiments with traffic surveillance, infrastructure monitoring, and roadway incident management. Most have focused on transmitting on-site video footage to control centers so operators can monitor congestion, coordinate incident response crews, or collect traffic data in areas without CCTV surveillance systems.

In recent years, UAVs have shown high potential in remote sensing in a wide variety of areas. Embedded new technologies in UAVs enable them to fly convenient, fast, precise, safe and economical compared to other modes of remote sensing.

The latest technologies are implemented by adopting this technique are listed below: -

1- A fully automatic flight mission including the way point execution and landing.

2- GPS- based position hold

3- Long-range wireless communication and

4- Long range data transmission.


A drone, in technological terms, is an unmanned aircraft. Essentially, a drone is a flying robot that can be remotely controlled or fly autonomously through software-controlled flight plans in their embedded systems, working in conjunction with onboard sensors and GPS.


According to a McKinsey study, the construction industry struggles with a great deal of inefficiency. Large construction projects typically take 20% longer than expected to complete and are up to 80% over budget.

Compared to other sectors, the industry has been slow in embracing new digital technologies, even though the long-term benefits are significant. It is time for disruption. And according to the study, commercial drones—or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—are key to this.

Some construction companies have already jumped on the professional drone bandwagon. In 2018, this sector saw a 239% increase in the adoption of drone technology. In its report on the impact of drones, PwC states that the use of drones throughout a construction project provides an unparalleled record of all activities; cuts planning and survey costs; increases efficiency and accuracy, and eliminates disputes over the status of a project at a given point in time. No wonder a drone program is currently a terrific investment for construction companies.

In the construction industry the drone data is used for surveying and the inspection purposes.Drones are equipped with downward-facing sensors, such as RGB, multispectral, thermal or LIDAR, and they can capture a great deal of aerial data in a short time.

Fig1 -Example of drones equipped with RGB cameras


The following are the mainly three benefits of using for construction and infrastructure projects are listed below: -

1- Fast, reproducible, on-demand image acquisition.

2- Accurate and comprehensive data.

3- Cost and time saving.

1- Fast, reproductive, on demand image acquisition: -

On a construction site, there is always a contractor, an engineering company, an earthmoving company and a number of subcontractors to execute specialized work. In addition to involving a lot of teams, deadlines are tight and require frequently-updated records to drive decisions and align multiple stakeholders.

This is where a major advantage of drones lies for construction site managers. Drones provide a complete picture of the construction site on-demand and within a few hours. The aerial images also act as a visual aid when communicating with all parties, so that everyone can see for themselves what has already been done and what remains to be done.

Fig -2 Orthomosaic map consists of hundreds of detailed images produced during a single drone flight

1- Accurate and comprehensive data: -

In addition to having detailed aerial photographs, the same data collected by a drone in a single flight provides a complete map of the site with GPS points, in 2D and 3D. These maps allow accurate measurements of distances, surfaces, elevations and volumes. From there, photogrammetry software also generates elevation models such as digital terrain models (DTMs) and digital surface models (DSMs).

1- Cost and time saving: -

Drones significantly reduce time-intensive data collection in the field and its associated labor costs. Hades Geodeesia, a 30-year-old surveying company is using drones to provide accurate survey data for the construction of a major highway in Estonia: “It doesn’t make sense to go outside and walk for three to four hours and get about 500 points and make calculations.” said Vaiko Veeleid, CEO of Hades Geodeesia.


Drone data is so versatile, it can be used throughout the entire construction lifecycle, from feasibility and tendering to delivery and maintenance.

The following are the applications of the drones used in the construction industry are listed below: -

1- Bidding and pre-planning.

2- Planning and design.

3- Execution.

4- Maintaince and asset inspection.


Before the advent of aerial drones, the traditional method to get the site data was carried out on-foot or via manned aerial vehicles. Using drones, the construction professionals have leveraged the opportunity to get up-to-date images as often as they like in real-time.

Drones in construction allow contractors a chance to monitor any issue, track progress and develop better plans on-site by providing an unrivalled view of a site at a fraction of the cost. This has largely been related to various aspects of a construction project from deploying labour, material wastage, site inspection, and an overall return on investment (RoI).

For instance, Norway has earned the title of having the best and safest road network in the continent since 2015-2017, which is being overseen by the Norwegian Public Roads Administration. The agency is targeting a zero-fatality goal by 2024, while using drones for surveying, to which the agency has reported cost savings by use of VTOL drones. Also, the field time savings were reported to be cut down to an hour from 5days.

In the current Covid-19 scenario, there has been a sudden surge in demand for remote site monitoring. Construction professionals all over the world are gradually up taking the adoption of drones/UAVs in various construction phases due to a gamut of operational and monetary benefits.

Drone deployment has largely been witnessed in projects carried out by some of the international companies such as Vinci Construction, Kier, and Balfour Betty. Felsburg Holt & Ullevig, another engineering/architectural company is using drones for surveying the right-of-way project in Colorado. Using a fixed-wing drone system for an extended flight time, a highly precise topographic base map along with orthorectified imagery is generated. This in turn, results in considerable time and cost savings, giving a superior visual output/deliverable.



From preconstruction (for placing accurate bids) to operations & maintenance (survey) phase, drones have proven to be of use during each lifecycle of a transport construction project. There is a seamless integration and collaboration of resources and stakeholders, with data being shared in real-time. A complete rendering of a jobsite helps in evaluating the flaws and loopholes well in advance. This in turn, ensures better project management approach with reduced project timelines, accurate site inventories, improved communications, and improved safety.

The benefits pertaining to adopting drones at site are numerous and their impact is listed below: -

vEnabling better construction site monitoring

v Calculating stockpile volume and material types for inventory

v Document registry: Search tag and find equipment on site

v Calculating length, width and elevation for roads and structures

v Annotating images and maps for easier communication

vCalculating overburden to plan for an efficient removal

CHALLENGES: - Regulatory hurdle appears to be the biggest growth barrier for wider drone adoption. In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandates drone fliers to get a certificate of registration before flying any unmanned air vehicle (UAV) on a construction site. The failing of the mandate will lead to a fine ranging from US$ 27,500 to US$ 250,000 including imprisonment.

Also, the price of a drone plays a crucial aspect in the selection of drone, which again varies basis the final scope and deliverable requirement (accuracy, resolution, flying time, swath, file type, etc.). A small sized drone kit with a mounted camera of 20 megapixel can be available for US$ 2,500 and can go up to US$ 15,000 for an industrial-type drone. A much higher variant ranges in between US$ 75,000 to US$ 100,000 for a drone mounted with LiDAR sensors.







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