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Apr 5, 2017 | Surveying and Mapping

How drones are supporting construction workers

Construction workers are adding a new tool to their toolbelt at Rogers-O”Brien Construction: Drones. Rogers-O”Brien is a midsize contractor in Texas known for its wide range of pre-construction and construction management services. About three years ago the company decided to add drones to their daily operations, and according to Blake Potts, regional virtual design and construction (VDC) manager at Rogers-O”Brien, the value of drones have been immense ever since.

“When we started we bought a DJI Phantom with a GoPro camera, and it was a great machine. It only had about 8-9 minutes of flight time, but it really was the proof of concept that we needed to start pushing this technology into the field,” he said.

However, it wasn”T smooth flying from the beginning. At first, the company was concerned about how safe the drones were, and if they were going to create a danger to their job sites. After using the drone and discovering what it could do, the company changed its tune. “Now it is more of how can we make our job sites safer instead of are we going to bring a drone out into the shite and hurt a bunch of people,” said Potts.

The company has been using a variety of DJI drones from the Phantom 3 and 4 to the Mavic. “The DJI products have really given us the majority of the functionality that we really need on our job sites. They are cheap and pretty bullet proof, which was our concern initially with drone technologies and how they hold up on dusty, dirty job sites,” said Potts.

In conjunction with the DJI drones, Rogers-O”Brien has also been using DroneDeploy’s mapping software to make jobs safer for its employees and help the business run more efficiently. A big area where the drones and the software have helped Rogers-O”Brien is with stormwater pollution prevention plans (SWPPP). According to Potts, SWPPP is something they have to do on every project and it is very project specific.

Traditionally, the company would have to rely on Google Map images or satellite images, which were often outdated, expensive to obtain, and time consuming to receive. With DJI and DroneDeploy, Rogers-O”Brien is now able to go to a site themselves, create a map of the site, and get an up-to-odate map of that site.

“It is hard to plan for anything, safety included, if you don”T have up to the minute accurate data and that is what the drones give us,” said Potts.

The company has also seen value is using drones for roofing inspections, another task that has to be done on every project. “In the past, we would put a team on a roof and strategically plan all these points so we could do it in a safe manner, but it was an expensive process that required a lot of planning and a lot of people to sign off on it,” said Potts. “Now for roofing inspections, we go out, we fly the drone with DroneDeploy, and we get a good quality image of that roof. We are really minimizing our time spent inspecting these roofs and putting personnel at risk.”

Potts hopes to see drones implemented into their operations even more in the future. One way Potts sees drones being useful is if they were able to map their entire sites from the interior to the exterior every day after work ended to capture the data and changes of the site autonomously.