Kenneth S. Sands II, Ph.D. Assistant Teaching Professor Construction Management Drexel University
Technological innovation in the construction industry is changing traditional workflows to improve efficiency in many ways. One such process-improving technological innovation, includes the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly referred to as drones, on project sites. As covered in the article, “Is Your Organization Ready for Drones?”, there are various organizational considerations before adopting drone technology.
Your company must first take an internal assessment of the organization’s resources (including human capital) to understand if there is an opportunity for efficient use of drone technology. Also, an organization must understand whether the use of drones serves as a value add for its processes. If it doesn’t add value to your business, then it’s basically a company toy.
After an internal assessment, your organization needs to identify an individual who eventually will be commercially certified as a UAV operator, which means investment in someone who will need to study for the examination, pass the examination, and will serve as the main remote pilot-in-command (PIC) for flight operations. The examination and training required for passing the Part 107 examination does not involve actual flight operations, which requires a separate training (but no exam). In addition to this, dedicated personnel known as visual observers (VO) may be required to conduct operations, possibly project engineers or other personnel who will be part of your job cost as well.
Then there’s one more major thing, the UAV itself. Do you want a UAV solely for progress photos or do you a more sophisticated device with features such as infrared technology? Also, what will the UAV cost, what parts may need to be replaced often, do I need/want backup batteries, what software are available to make the data captured useful and how much do these software licenses cost, what about liability/risk, how often does my remote PIC need to recertify, and do we need insurance for operations? All-in-all, the decision to engage in drone operations should not be limited to the first cost of a UAV, there are various considerations that may lead to unintended expenditure if you don’t broaden your analysis and take a deeper look at the true cost of ownership and operations.
With digital natives being at the forefront of technological innovation, it is important that you leverage this generation of practitioners to engage in a discussion about process/workflow improvement, while considering various alternatives. For more information, read the full article in Construction Today, a publication of the General Building Contractors Association.