In the dynamic landscape of construction, the adage "time is money" rings truer than ever, and safety remains a paramount concern. E Construction, one of western Canada's leading paving contractors, has embodied this ethos by integrating drones into their operations. This innovative approach has not only streamlined their processes but also significantly enhanced safety and reporting on projects.
Drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) as they're technically known, are fast becoming a game-changer in the construction industry. Their value is being recognized across North America, particularly in roadbuilding projects and bridge inspections. These high-flying marvels are revolutionizing materials management and safety protocols, making them an indispensable asset in modern construction.
E Construction, a division of Colas Canada, has found drones particularly beneficial in their gravel pit operations. "The use of drones in our business is invaluable," says Dave Manchakowski, Vice President of Finance for E Construction. The company's use of drones has paid off, providing a wealth of data that has proven beneficial for year-end inventories and year-to-year comparisons.
But the benefits of drones extend beyond data collection. They're also instrumental in enhancing worker and public safety. By minimizing lane closures and reducing the time that inspectors spend at high altitudes, drones have significantly mitigated safety risks.
The construction industry is on a learning journey with drone technology. Over the past five years, the capabilities of these devices have advanced rapidly. The industry is now exploring their value and determining how best to use drones in specific applications.
As more automation and safety features are introduced, costs are dropping significantly. Contractors starting out with this technology need to weigh the benefits of owning drones and training employees versus hiring a service provider.
E Construction has found that drones not only save time and money but also increase inventory management efficiency. The company estimates that using drones saves them $50,000 to $60,000 a year. This is because the surveying process has been reduced from nearly two weeks to just 30 minutes. By uploading drone data to the cloud, E Construction has eliminated the hassles of aggregates inventory management, allowing for accurate and actionable data and analytics.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has also found value in drones, particularly for bridge inspections. Since 2015, MnDOT has been researching drones and is now incorporating their use into bridge inspections. Drones have reduced safety risks and inconvenience to bridge inspectors and the traveling public. Newer drones, with vertical and horizontal camera and sensor capabilities, can give inspectors safe access to more remote under-deck areas and confined spaces.
Drones provide a cost-effective way for agencies with limited budgets to properly access their structures and manage resources. They significantly augment inspection findings with infrared and imaging data while reducing safety risks. "With better access, more accurate inspection data can be obtained, which increases the accuracy of scoping bridge projects," says Jennifer Wells, a MnDOT engineer who runs the state’s bridge inspection unit.
Drones are paving the way for a new era in the construction industry. They're not just a tool for the present but a vital investment for the future. As technology continues to advance, the potential applications for drones will only expand, making them an indispensable asset in the construction industry's toolkit.
At DronesPlus, we're more than just a provider of drone solutions. We're your partner in navigating the future of drone technology in the energy sector and beyond. We would love to help you with your questions contact us.