10 TOP JOBS
RotorDrone|August/ September 2021
Fields where drones are taking off!

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), 2.85 million small drones could fill the sky by 2022, and nearly a half-million will be used for commercial purposes. The drone services market size is expected to grow to $63.6 billion by 2025! The drone industry continues to build momentum and shows no signs of slowing down. That all boils down to one thing: operators will be needed to fly or program all of those drones! Read on to learn more about the top applications for commercial drones.

CONSTRUCTION

According to “Construction Dive,” a website that offers insight into the news and trends shaping the construction and building industry, “Drones provide construction teams with an overhead view of jobsites, materials, machinery and people. Contractors are using the autonomous flying machines to record images and videos that help optimize everything from grading plans and operations to identifying differences between as-designed and as-built site plans. Their usefulness can be enhanced with thermal cameras and other add-ons like mapping tools and GPS units.

“Drones have become the go-to tool for construction firms to track, map, survey, inspect, and manage worksites more efficiently and safely,” says Dan Burton, founder of DroneBase, a drone pilot network that provides support for construction companies. “Through aerial imagery and data, builders can map projects, report progress updates and gain insights through advanced analytics to make better, faster and more reliable decisions.”

Construction managers can use drones with thermal sensors and ground control points (GCPs) to more quickly identify and resolve issues like water leaks and concrete cracks. UAVs are also useful tools for accident prevention. Overhead images not only show possible security issues but also machinery positions, indicating where projects may be congested or where hazards may exist.

Denver-based PCL Construction has used drones for more than three years on nearly all of its major projects to improve jobsite communication, perform volumetric analysis, overlay design documents with installed work for visual verification, verify grades and provide historical documentation.

“The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words has never been more true,” Bill Bennington, PCL’s national quality manager, told Construction Dive.

New England contractor Windover Construction uses drones to establish a 3D model of jobsites, which managers import into the company’s Building Information Modeling workflow.

Drone provider Skycatch is recording all construction activity on Microsoft’s Redmond campus renovation project, feeding data into more than 100 models that contain almost 3 million 3D building components.

For marketing purposes or for client updates, drones can capture detailed, closeup images that are not possible with a photographer on the ground or even in a helicopter, Burton told Construction Dive. “It’s also a much safer solution than taking pictures from a crane and more affordable than a helicopter flight,” he said.

Having a bird’s-eye view allows teams to better coordinate onsite and allows supervisors dynamic oversight of all operations, from grading plans and operations to inspections during each process of construction.

REAL ESTATE

Bill Brown, president of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), says that drones are “streamlining the buying and selling process by providing more visual information at a reasonable cost. Any opportunity you have to further educate the buyer to the property they’re purchasing is a win-win for everybody.” The NAR site further states that drone imagery is “an incredible tool for potential homeowners moving to a different city, buying a second home, or trying to streamline the research process necessary to buy a new home. Many commercial properties or large parcels of land do not lend themselves well to traditional photography.”

Brian Balduf, CEO and co-founder of real estate photography company VHT Studios, said his company started offering drone photo and video packages to clients last year in addition to its other photo services. “In marketing real estate, you’re trying to get people’s attention and get them to spend more time looking at the property,” Balduf said. “Drone photography and video is definitely unique and offers a cool, interesting perspective.”

John Morrison, a real estate broker with @ Properties in Barrington, Illinois, recently used drone photography to showcase a large lakefront property that had previously been on-and-off the market. “It had an indoor basketball court and a private lakefront, but there was no way to capture it all in the frame of the camera. It just looked like an ordinary two-story house from the front,” Morrison said. He used a drone to take a photo with all of those selling points in the frame: the large house, the basketball court addition and the lake. “I found a buyer in two weeks,” he said. “The biggest thing that helped close the deal was the fact that the main photo showed the scope of the house, the court and the shore of the lake behind it.”

Morrison said he had also used drones to give potential buyers a way to investigate a new town. “We’ve started to do town and village drone videos,” he said. “It’s really nice for transferees who have to move to a new town they’re not familiar with. It’s a nice, welcoming snapshot of what we have to offer here.” From the air, clients can see bodies of water, parks, golf courses and other landmarks and community amenities in a way they can’t by simply looking at a map or a satellite photo of the area.

ENERGY

Measure, an aerial intelligence company that builds software to automate drone operations workflows, says that they are seeing commercial drone use “graduate from the fringe cases and internal exploratory studies to enterprise-wide programs being planned and implemented across large and medium-sized companies worldwide.

For Transmission and Distribution operations, the drone serves a variety of near-term needs, from transmission tower inspection to substation issues to routine maintenance. Measure writes, “Imagine getting a call about a problem with a transmission tower. Without a drone, you order a lineman to go up the tower to inspect the issue, which is dangerous work to begin with. Adding to the obstacles, the only way to get to the tower might be through difficult terrain that is only accessible by way of private property. With traditional means, it may take a couple days to obtain permission to walk across private property and to schedule a small crew to trek to the tower and run an inspection. With a drone and licensed pilot, this can be accomplished in a matter of minutes. Drones can also be used in areas too close to trees or homes for helicopters and in areas that are too difficult to access for ground patrols. There are no hazardous manhours involved. And you get a clean look at the tower in real time, allowing your team to properly diagnose the problem and suggest a remedy before you even leave the site.”

“Every time we fly, we’re literally saving two to three days of work,” Stephen Dorsett, Contract Coordinator and Journeyman Lineman at Indiana Power & Light (IPL) explains. Without the drone, you’d have to obtain approval before even sending someone up in the truck, a process that could take days.

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