CONNstruction - Fall 2015 - (Page 9)

newsandviews Eyes Over the Project: Drones in Construction By John W. Butts AGC of Connecticut Executive Director A year or so ago, I attended a business meeting about the use of drones to help ensure compliance with environmental laws. The discussion focused not only on the use of drones by the federal and state environmental regulators and the regulated community, but also by environmental activists interested in monitoring suspected environmental scofflaws. I learned a lot that day about drones in a regulatory sense, but the event also piqued my curiosity about how drones could be used in the construction industry to perform functions that would be otherwise unattainable or infeasible by humans. Since then, many reports have indeed come to light about the use of drones on construction jobsites for all kinds of purposes. It's important to understand that the commercial use of drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is currently banned under federal law; however, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has the authority to waive requirements for drone flights that are operated outside of restricted airspace and below 200 feet. The FAA is in the process of developing regulations for an expanded use of commercial drones, but in the meantime, the agency recently approved approximately 1,000 applications for the use of drones, some of which were granted to firms for construction-related purposes. While the potential for drone use is just getting started, according to an article in the May/June edition of Constructor Magazine, with a little creativity, contractors are finding that drones can come in handy for a broad set of functions. One of the most popular uses is for snapping overhead pictures of projects to create marketing and business development materials. Also, drones are being flown over construction sites to make sure work is being performed safely, to monitor progress during construction, to determine existing conditions before projects start, and to verify results after projects are completed. Oliver Smith, VDC director for Skanska USA Building, told me recently that they are currently working to obtain an exemption from the FAA to be able to use drones on their own. In the meantime, he confirmed that Skanska has been using drones through a third-party vendor for what he refers to as "low-hanging fruit," which generally means for visual clarification and communication. In particular, he said their vendor's drone has a soil cutand-fill application that allows them to generate quantities faster. They have also used drones for a number of other specific applications, including quality control, safety planning and logistics. There have also been reports about how drones are being flown over jobsites all day scanning completed work with onboard 3D scanners. The drone captures images and 3D scans and automatically relays the data back to the cloud system to compare, manage, and measure daily scans and models of the jobsite. In the same way Amazon made headlines when the online retail giant announced plans to someday deliver packages to destinations by drones, construction firms have begun to explore the possibility that drones may be able to transport small parts and tools across jobsites or to high locations. The day when drones are able to carry that kind of weight may be years away, though, especially since nearly all small parts and tools currently outweigh the average drone itself. Such a vision, though, does confirm the vast possibilities about the usefulness of drones in construction. Construction professionals caution that the use of drones is not without an element of risk. The illegal use of drones without an FAA waiver carries heavy penalties, including fines and possible imprisonment. Attorneys advise that to mitigate their risk contractors should consider outsourcing drone use to a company that holds FAA permits for specific uses, as Skanska has done. Contractors need to be aware of their insurance coverages, as well. Several national insurance carriers are offering separate aviation policies that cover bodily injury and physical damage, and may also cover consequential damages and catastrophic losses. Insurance professionals also warn that if contractors are using drones without the proper FAA permitting, certain claims against an aviation policy may not be deemed valid by the insurance company. So while using drones in construction requires careful thought and consideration of all the legal, regulatory, operational, and cost issues that go with it, it's been demonstrated that, if used properly, drones can improve a project's efficiency, accuracy and safety. CONNstruction / FALL 2015 / 9

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CONNstruction - Fall 2015

Striking the Right Technological Balance
Eyes Over the Project: Drones in Construction
Connecticut Moves to Modernize Technology
Technology Drives Lean, Adds Value to Projects
Machine-Controlled Equipment Improves Jobsite Performance
Secure Your Data
Intelligent Communication in Transportation
Is Your Construction Software Technology Up to Speed?
Young Contractors Forum Summer Membership Meeting and Young Contractors Forum Annual Charity Golf Outing
AGC of Connecticut Annual Golf Outing
Press Conference and 2015 CCIA Ethics and Compliance Summit
Index to Advertisers/

CONNstruction - Fall 2015