A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Drones in Your Construction Future?

The LA Times reported last week that Congress has instructed the FAA to have a plan that will allow private companies to fly drones in US airspace by 2015, but if you watch carefully you might see them already flying in your neighborhood or over your construction site.

They might be used in a variety of ways.  Construction company SpawGlass has proposed using them to survey sites for safety during construction.  The company has put together the following 2-minute video of their corporate building in Houston in order to demonstrate the inspection capabilities the drones provide.

Other uses include observing environmentally sensitive sites for wildlife like ConocoPhillips recently did in Alaska as part of their permitting process.  They could even be used for gathering information on vehicle and water flows around and through various sites.

That may be only the beginning.  UK General Contractor Balfour Beatty CIO Danny Reeves told Techworld reporter Sam Shead at a recent Fujitsu Forum that they plan to use the drones for safety observation and “gaming” to improve worker and jobsite safety on their sites around the world.  Much like the games that we play online, those “safety games” will be required of workers before they take on dangerous tasks on the site.

This reminds me of the Virtual Reality labs utilized by NASA for training astronauts (and a few civilians like me) for its repair work on the Hubble Telescope and which were popularized in the recent movie Gravity.  As in space, construction safety is paramount on major builds, especially when you are placing spires such as the one on the new World Trade Center in NYC.  They also are proposing to use drones to monitor workers’ vital signs in dangerous situations to make for certain that they exercise proper judgment.

How far can it go?  The Smithsonian Magazine’s blog reports that an architectural firm used drones to build its model of a tower of the future in Orleans France, and that they are investigating ways that the drones could assemble wall sections on the real building when and if it is constructed.

Oh yes, the FAA is looking for test sites where they can develop the criteria for the flying of those drones in US air space other than the border, where they are used to track movements of drugs and illegals.

So, for those of you who have recently added BIM, LEED and LEAN to your arsenal of tools, you might begin to look for those men and women returning from Afghanistan to teach you how to use drones to make your jobsites and your workers safer and more productive.

Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force

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