Drone Technology Takes Flight
October 20, 2021
Innovative technology has changed the face of the AEC industry in multiple areas, including virtual reality, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and more. An equally pivotal innovation, the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) or drones, has forever changed engineering in the field for those who recognize its value in creating safer and more efficient data-gathering.
Drone-driven data improves accuracy, provides ease of collection in hazardous or difficult terrains, facilitates collection and sharing of information, and enhances health and safety for field crews. Further, on active construction sites, drones can be flown without interrupting field operations and causing schedule delays. Resultant data can be quickly uploaded to cloud-based platforms for easy access, interpretation, and sharing among stakeholders.
Drones in the Field
To fly a drone commercially under Federal Aviation Administration Part 107 Rule, a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA must be obtained. The certification demonstrates that one understands the regulations, operating requirements, and procedures for safely flying a UAS.
The number of certified pilots has increased significantly over the last decade. In 2010, this technology was not used on constructions projects, but by 2020 approximately 20% of all construction projects were embracing UAS and the wide variety of payloads available to support their projects.
Fisher Associates has recognized the value of drones in the field and uses them on various project sites. “We now use drones for inspections, site overviews, project updates, security and safety reviews, and more,” said Lisa Oliver, PE., Director of Energy. “Jobsite health and safety is enhanced as it removes the necessity to walk a hazardous site and saves time in the process. Documenting project progress as well as completed work in the field, particularly during COVID-19, has proved invaluable when site visits have been reduced or discouraged. Further, the invaluable birds-eye-view can help a seasoned drone pilot spot items that might be missed at ground level such as voids, depressions, and bulges, so calculations match conditions in the field. Drone-driven data, retrievable from the cloud, has also found its seat at the table in virtual meetings presenting the most up-to-date information.
The Fisher team has multiple drones varying in size/payload ready to be dispatched at a moment’s notice. Comprehensive and continually evolving, our in-house program produces highly accurate data faster and more efficiently and is dynamic with the ability to accommodate new applications as innovation progresses. Fisher tailors the scheduling and flying process to a project’s specific timeline. Data can be expedited for many applications from daily reports to large-scale inspections — whatever the specific need, reducing the hours spent on these tasks saves time and money for the client. Another key feature of drones is that the data is easily integrated into other data sets enabling the meshing of drone and conventional data.
For Fisher, drones have a myriad of uses, and those uses expand every day. Fisher will be using drones on an upcoming 130-acre energy development project requiring topography and photometrics data, which will take several hours to complete initial set up and about one hour to fly. Using the drone on this large project saves a minimum of five days, which is significant to a client’s bottom line. Conversely, using conventional surveyors would take two people walking the site and collecting data 8 – 10 hours per day for up to seven days.
Fisher has the ability to change payloads depending on the data to be collected. The possibilities for drone usage are far-reaching and on the horizon, Fisher envisions using drones to determine overall facility health, and investigate gas leaks which can be detected quickly and with pinpoint accuracy. For example, different payloads are attached to collect data, such as:
The Fisher Difference
In the end, it’s all about value to the client, using and interpreting data in the most efficient way, and advancing innovative engineering on all of Fishers’ projects.
Contact Lisa Oliver, PE, Interim Director of Energy at email@example.com to discuss the benefit of using drones on your next Energy project.