Get started with drones in construction

August 21, 2018 10:23 am

Drones haven’t always been as prevalent as they are today, but they are now widely used across a variety of industries, and are transforming how work is done in the construction industry.

Drones have a number of key uses on construction sites, for instance; surveying, gathering data and project surveillance, to name a few, but getting started with drones can sometimes be challenging, so here, Amy Cheeseman, Waldeck’s Digital Capture Lead discusses her top tips and things to think about when leveraging drones in construction.

  1. Consider the complete solution

This is really important!

With the amount of people using drones as a hobby or commercially, the number of different drones, cameras, sensors, accessories and software available is increasing rapidly, making it a difficult decision to select the right tool for the job.

Ask yourself, what is it that you want to accomplish? Is it to survey an area in 3D or is it progressive data capture to monitor real-time site progress, either way the integration of hardware and software to streamline the process needs to be considered.

  1. Understand rules and regulations

Drone operators need to be familiar with all the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) rules and regulations before using drones commercially.

Some of the CAA rules for construction firms to keep in mind, include:

  • Pilots must be have completed a remote pilot competency course
  • Permission from Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to fly
  • Pilots must keep the aircraft in visual line-of-sight or less than 500m from the pilot and below 400ft high
  • Operate drones away from airports
  • Operate drones away from restricted air space
  1. Always think health and safety

As with any task on a construction site, health and safety is of utmost importance and there are many things to think about when operating a drone on a construction site, here’s a few:

  • A safety procedure should be in place for all parties, including flight planning and safe drone operation
  • A full risk assessment must be carried out taking into account the hazards associated to drones operating as well as site hazards such as open excavations and vehicle movements
  • Have observers keeping a lookout for hazards, to allow the pilot to concentrate fully on their task
  • Sites should be evaluated before a flight begins, consider what and who is around you – drones cannot be flown within 50 metres of structures, vehicles or people that are not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft; or within 150m of a congested area
  • Consider a site walk before take-off to pick up any new hazards which may have appeared during the planning stage
  • Always check the height of the tallest structure on site before take-off
  • Always check safety features are set to the site you are on
  1. You must have insurance

Drone operators must have insurance that meets the requirements of EC Regulation No 785/2004 and if your insurance policy does not meet this regulation, your CAA permission is invalid.

With many rival companies offering drone insurance, it’s always best to compare and check exactly what is covered. Think about how many accessories you may need and the cost to replace if the policy did not include these. As well as annual insurance policies, many companies now offer ‘pay as you fly’ cover.

  1. Planning, Planning, Planning

As with any project, good and appropriate planning is essential.

Even if you’ve been to the site before, never assume everything will be the same, especially when it comes to cranes, they may not be the same height as your last visit!

Construction sites are constantly evolving so it’s best to do a site walk before take-off to pick up any new hazards which may have appeared and ask if any new hazards may be arriving to site that da, such as a new crane or delivery of materials to be stored in the area you want to take off.

No matter how thorough your planning may be leading up to a project, always check everything on the day because airspace restrictions may suddenly be in place over your job site, solar activity may have increased and the weather forecasts may have got their predictions wrong.

Ready, Set, Go!

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