How drones are transforming construction progress reporting

Written by
Brooke Hahn
August 18, 2022

Managing a construction project is no small feat. There are a myriad of components that need to be coordinated - from pre-construction to finished delivery - including managing the various stakeholders involved in each stage of the project lifespan. 

For construction project managers, having oversight over your construction site is key for ensuring a project’s success: from monitoring progress, ensuring safety on site, managing disputes, to reporting to clients and stakeholders. And while it can be a challenge to get right, drones and aerial intelligence are providing huge benefits to how construction progress is managed.

How is construction oversight typically managed (pre-drones)?

Pre-drones, there have primarily been two ways to visualise a construction’s progress:

  1. Boots on the ground; and 
  2. Satellite imagery

The boots on the ground approach is an obvious one - where construction managers manually visit their sites, see the progress for themselves and possibly use a smartphone to capture pictures of the site. While there are no issues with this approach per se, there are time and monetary costs associated with it, along with limitations of the types of photos that can be captured i.e. only ground level shots.

Satellite photo imagery is also a popular method for seeing a construction site’s progress. While satellite imagery gives you an aerial view of your site, it comes with some limitations. Satellite imagery is updated only periodically, which means you’ll receive occasional updates that may not match the frequency requirements of your project. What’s more, the resolution of satellite imagery may not give you the level of detail or image quality you need.

Satellite image versus a Birdi orthophoto
Satellite image updated periodically versus a Birdi orthophoto

Drones for construction progress reporting

With the growing popularity of commercial drones in the construction industry, and aerial intelligence platforms like Birdi, impartial construction progress reporting has become a whole lot easier. Drones can be flown on-demand, which means you get complete, aerial visibility in real-time, as and when you need it. The resolution of drone captured images is also much higher than that of satellites (they’re closer to the ground, after all), which means you’ll get better quality images of your site, and their transformation into orthophotos (think: photos stitched together to give you an aerial view of your site in a single photo). What’s more, you get historical records of your site’s development, which is helpful in times of possible contention among stakeholders.

Drone data capture

There are 3 main options for using drones for construction progress reporting: 1) using Birdi’s drone pilot network to capture the site for you, 2) finding your own independent drone pilot, or 3) getting your on-site team to capture the site by flying a drone themselves.

Birdi’s drone pilot network

We have a pilot network of 2,000+ qualified drone pilots all around Australia, who can capture any site for you, at the frequency you need (available on our Enterprise plan). If you’re interested in learning more, feel free to book in a demo and chat with our team about your needs.

Sourcing your own pilot

There are numerous independent pilot contractors out there who you can contact to capture for you. (They quite possibly use Birdi as their aerial intelligence platform, so we may see you on the platform one day!)

Flying drones in-house

Not everyone is in a position to have their drone capture outsourced, and as such, flying drones yourself is a great option. People within your on-site team/s can be trained on how to fly, and then able to capture your site as often as required.

Visualise your site

Once your site has been captured by drone (some of our other articles will cover the specifics of drone capture), you need to upload the images into an aerial intelligence platform like Birdi for visualisation. This is where the real magic of drone-captured images for construction progress reporting comes into play.

Each drone-captured image is visible on the flight map, at the precise location the photo was taken from. This gives you a contextual understanding of your site, that you can easily compare to earlier missions to further track progress.

The images can then be processed into globally accurate orthophotos. An orthophoto is essentially where drone images are stitched together into a single image that’s a top down model view of your site. The orthophoto is then layered on the map, with the individual drone images and their positions visible as well. This gives you complete aerial context of your site, and helps you to easily see how the project is tracking.

Construction site orthophoto within Birdi platform

If you’re using Birdi, you can also use our annotation tools (like line, polygon and marker) on the orthophoto to measure distances, mark up areas for follow up, and communicate effectively with your team and stakeholders.

Drones and aerial intelligence are transforming the construction industry, by providing innovative ways to visualise construction progress. Project managers can gain greater visibility over their sites and with it, a better understanding of where their project is up to at any given time.

We’re helping construction companies gain huge benefits from drones and aerial intelligence, and if it’s something that has piqued your interest, we’d love to chat further with you! Check out our Construction page or reach out to Book a Demo with our team.

Brooke Hahn
Brooke has been involved in SaaS startups for the past 10 years. From marketing to leadership to customer success, she has worked across the breadth of teams and been pivotal in every company's strategy and success.

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