By Gord Honor
Special to Ontario Construction Report
Drone technology has advanced greatly over the last several years. When prosumer drones first came on the market they were mainly being used for capturing photos and videos of real estate to help with marketing properties from a unique perspective.
The technology has advanced so much in a relatively short period of time that professional drones are being used as vehicles to carry payloads of some amazing equipment from complex camera systems, to LiDar systems.(Light Detection and Ranging) laser scanners.
Drones, or Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) as they are known here in Canada, have made a huge impact on the constitution and agriculture industries by automating tasks that in the past would have either been impossible or extremely expensive to accomplish.
Drone mapping is one of the most interesting advances in technology that is commonly being used in the construction industry. The way it works is a drone (RPAS) is used as an acquisition device to capture a multitude of overlapping images of the area to be monitored, measured and analyzed. The images, numbering from 10 to tens of thousands depending on the size of the project, are then combined through a software program to create a single image through a process known as photogrammetry.
There are a variety of programs that are designed specifically processing these images. The programs output what can be as simple as a two dimensional map that can be used to monitor the construction progress by comparing images over different date ranges, to a very complex 3D model.
The more complex models can produce highly accurate measurements, including volume measurements. The maps produced by the acquisition of drone data are more detailed, and measurements are more accurate than using online tools like GoogleMaps.
As an example of cost savings when earth work is being done drone technology can be employed to accurately estimate the number of loads required to move a section of earth, reducing time and saving unnecessary expense of having too many or not enough heavy equipment lined up for the task. The 3D models that are produced are easy to use and in a few clicks you can easily determine the volume of a pile of material.
Drone technology allows for improved communication at all stages of the construction process from planning to final completion through the sharing of drone data. Virtual site meetings can be held where current 3D models can be shared with architects, engineers, and project managers, investors, suppliers and subcontractors. Analyzing data in this way can eliminate costly mistakes, and save time and money by reducing the number of people who actually need to be on site not only making it less expensive but safer as well.
Gord Honor is the founder of Toronto Drone Photography. He trained at the New York Institute of Photography as a professional photographer and holds an Advanced Drone Operator license with Transport Canada.