Drone technology reaches new heights by UK Construction Media
The number of companies using drone technology has increased significantly, although more advanced digital/reality capture outputs continue to be underutilised.
The use of digital/reality capture information from drone technology continues to increase in the UK and Irish construction industries, with 52% of respondents now using the technology compared with only 33% in 2017, according to a survey by ProDroneWorx, one of the UK’s leading companies for aerial mapping, inspection and surveying.
In the second iteration of this market leading survey, ProDroneWorx asked senior figures within the construction, infrastructure and asset inspection markets about their perception, usage and understanding of the digital/ reality capture outputs from drone technology. The response to this survey was impressive with 150 respondents taking part across the UK and Ireland.
Leading construction company Kier said: “The latest Prodroneworx survey demonstrates how far drone technology has progressed. Kier is working closely with Prodroneworx on some key projects to realise the benefits from drone technology, including progress capture, 360 photography and photogrammetry.”
Steven Hedley, Vice-President Technical at the CIAT said “As regulation and licencing laws surrounding drone usage tighten, it is imperative that specialist drone operators continue to facilitate the development of drone technology and its integration with Building Information Modelling (BIM) within our industry to maximise benefits and minimise misuse.”
According to the survey, the top 3 reasons for adopting the technology are improved data quality (56%), time saving (54%) and the reduction of risk (42%). Interestingly, fewer companies than last year are planning on utilising drone technology in-house, reflecting, perhaps the level of knowledge and expertise needed to deploy them.
However, the findings of this survey also demonstrate that drone technology is currently being underutilised. While 74% of respondents are using drone technology for photography and video, fewer than 30% of respondents are using the technology for value add services like aerial LiDAR, 3D point clouds, 3D modelling, digital surface/terrain models, orthophotos and thermal imaging.
ProDroneWorx believes that the digital/reality capture data outputs created from drone technology using photogrammetry and LiDAR are starting to transform traditional business models, helping to reshape the construction, infrastructure and asset inspection markets. This is happening through the improved management of assets digitally, deeper data insights, better collaboration on projects, improved data deliverables to clients, cost reductions and the reduction of risk.
Construction companies in the UK are experiencing massive cost pressure, limited access to capital from financial markets or lenders and ever tighter margins. In the UK, the average margin of construction companies is approximately 2%. This is unstainable. Construction firms need to embrace change, technology and construction methods to increase their margins. They cannot continue to adopt the same approach to construction as they’ve done in the past. Instead, they need to embrace new digital technologies such as drones, BIM, data analytics, and offsite manufacturing.
Those early adopters of the technology are starting to see a positive impact on their operational processes from the way projects are monitored to the inspection of assets. The digital/reality capture outputs from drone technology can be used at all stages of the construction phase: planning, design, construction, and marketing.
Ian Tansey, Managing Director at ProDroneWorx, said: “In a world of very tight margins of about 2% in construction, and an increasingly competitive landscape, the use of digital/reality capture data gives firms a significant competitive advantage over their peers through improved data quality, reduced costs, increased productivity gains and the mitigation of risk”.
Key takeaways from the survey:
Over a half of respondents (52%) are currently using drone technology in their operations. These early adopters understand the benefits it brings to their organisations.
Of the 52% that are currently using drone technology:
The majority (45%) have been using it for less than a year.
Only 14% of this sub-group have been using the technology for the last 3 to 5 years making them very early adopters
74% of those not using the technology plan on using it in future, so usage should continue to increase.
Only a small proportion (15%) of firms have no plans to use the technology in the future.
Construction firms have two options when it comes to deciding how to incorporate drone technology into their business models and workflow: creating an internal drone unit/function; or using a 3rd party specialist.
The vast majority of firms plan on outsourcing the business to third party companies
Only 23% of companies plan on using the technology themselves (in-house), down from 28% in 2017.
Issues such as regulation, licensing, insurance, hardware, software and data processing are all factors putting firms off an internal function.
Many find it easier, cheaper and less risky to use a professional drone solutions company on projects.
Awareness of drone technology and the various benefits it brings is high within the industry; 79% of respondents understand how the technology can be used within their business.
The three main reasons firms are using the technology are:
Improved data quality (56%)
Time saving (54%)
Reduced risk (42%)
150 respondents completed the survey
The majority of respondents (78%) were from England, followed by the Republic of Ireland at 11%; a smaller number were from Scotland (7%) and Wales (3%).
26% of respondents were from Construction, 17% Architecture, 17% Civil Engineering, 9% Building Surveying, 7% Surveying and 23% in other sectors.
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