Drones are essentially unmanned aircraft, suitable for seeing places it could be tricky for humans to get eyes on without technological assistance. Technically known as UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), drones are rapidly becoming a tool of civil engineers and surveyors for a variety of reasons.
Various types of drones are in use in the construction industry. These range from multi-rotor drones, very familiar to most people, to fixed wing drones, which appear much sleeker and work more like a conventional airplane. Adding drone technology into your civil engineering toolbox could be a way to work faster and smarter — for better results.
Drones, particularly fixed wing drones, are ideal for mapping the topography of a large area. Drones can fly high enough to get a widespread view of an area, but can also descend much lower than conventional aircraft. This means they’re not necessarily affected by cloud cover, which can prevent an airplane or helicopter from taking effective footage or photos.
Aerial mapping with a drone does require a drone pilot with specialized knowledge, which is still much more cost effective than any type of conventional aircraft. Using a drone for aerial mapping is also faster and, if there’s an area you need more detail on, simple enough to repeat specific sections of mapping. Plus, drones can take aerial photos of such high quality that detailed 3D models of the terrain can be created using the data provided. This allows for an even better understanding of the land and how the project could fit into the existing landscape.
Miniaturized Scanning Equipment: LiDAR and More
LiDAR, short for Light Detection and Ranging, is a laser technology that’s fast being adopted in a variety of civil engineering projects. It allows for accurate and speedy measuring of distances on the project site, making it invaluable for surveying purposes. Drones can now be fitted with miniaturized LiDAR sensors, boosting their accuracy and overall usefulness as a surveying tool.
A drone is no longer limited to taking photos. It can provide detailed digital information including LiDAR, ultra-high definition video, or even thermal imaging. As sensors and scanning equipment are made lighter and require less power, the uses of a drone for scanning project sites will continue to increase.
If your project site includes existing buildings of any type, it’s certain that you will require access to the roof to review if there are any defects or other concerns. Roof access can be a complicated matter. Even where roofs are perfectly safe and strong, they may be inaccessible, or it may simply be too time-consuming or costly to send multiple human surveyors up to gather data.
Drones for building surveying can take a range of aerial shots of buildings, allowing surveyors and civil engineers to collect rich data about the potential construction site without having to set foot in the building. Drones can be programmed to take automatic shots from a variety of angles, or from different altitudes, to help engineers understand exactly what’s going on with the building in question.
Drones can access areas in which it may be unsafe to have foot traffic. As we’ve already seen, where existing buildings are in place, drones can access high rooftops or take a look at external walls or piping that would be difficult to access without highly specialized lifting equipment or scaffolds.
If there is an environmental concern, such as the risk of a toxic plant, or a possible air-pollution issue, a drone can enter the area and take necessary scans or video footage. This allows surveyors to complete their work as efficiently as possible, without ever putting anyone at risk.
Once construction starts, drones can also increase the safety of the site via remote monitoring, quickly capturing and recording construction progress, and providing detailed documentation of conditions, all while being operated from a safe location.
From the previous points, it’s clear that by using drones to scan and survey sites, significant cost savings can be achieved...being able to access sites without expensive equipment or safety gear. The ability to understand the conditions and topography of a site without hiring an airplane or helicopter also reduces the financial burden on a project.
InnoSurv is the key to implementing technology in civil engineering in such a way that everyone benefits. Drones are evolving and adapting quickly to the needs of the industry, and smart surveying services implement drones alongside a range of other methods for the best all-round results. Feel free to get in touch for more information on how drones and other technologies provide accuracy and efficiency you can count on.