From the Archives: Send in the Drones
This story originally appeared in our August/September 2016 issue.
It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s your newest high-tech multi-tool: a sophisticated, unmanned air vehicle that can do everything from jobsite surveillance and security, to site mapping and environmental reporting. Use it to create high-definition aerial footage – to show progress to clients, or as promotion for your own company. Like the ultimate infomercial, this tool really has it all.
Once considered an expensive novelty, drones, otherwise known as “unmanned air vehicles,” have moved away from the hobby and military markets and are now taking off in the commercial realm, including residential construction.
Just how are drones making a difference? Consider the new stadium being built for the Sacramento Kings, in California. Each day, drones patrol the jobsite, taking video that is later converted into 3D pictures, which is then fed into the digitized architectural plans. Not only is the data perfect – there’s no such thing as human error here – but it shows everything from how the project is progressing, to parts that are falling behind schedule. And, of course, it provides the contractor with high-definition imagery to show the client, and to keep for both insurance reasons (in case of accident, here’s footage), security (has there been a breach, or are there vulnerable areas), and vanity (check out what we’re working on, posted to the contractor’s social feeds).
Admittedly this isn’t exactly in the realm of residential construction. But according to the National Association of Home Builders, more than 20 percent of single-family builders have already used an aerial drone, either with their own device or through a third party. And while the numbers are slightly lower back home, Transport Canada revived its commercial drone-use regulations, in 2014, making it much easier for contractors to get into the flying game. A year later, TC also reported that applications for commercial drone permits had risen to more than 1,600, up from a mere 66 the year before.
Today, a drone can cost you anywhere from around $700 for a basic model, to several grand for a device with pro-level mapping capabilities and advanced flying technology. Then there’s the cost of permits and the know-how to safely operate and store the device. Or, like that industrial hole digger you use once every 16 months or so, you can simply rent one. Or, better still, hire a drone-driving subcontractor to handle the job.
Beyond mastering the drone itself, there are also rules concerning where and how high you can fly, as well as concerns related to safety and insurance coverage, as well as privacy. Like, if you’re the contractor working on 24 Sussex Drive, you might want to make it a drone-free worksite.