Rising Technologies in the Construction Industry
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV or Drone)
One of the fairly new technologies coming into broader use is the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone. Currently drones are rarely used in construction sites but they should become more widely used in the near future based on possible applications. Drones currently are limited to a height of less than 400ft and weight less than 4.4 pounds keeping them in the “Hobby Class” of drones. These are most often multiple propeller helicopters called quadcopters. With their design, they are capable of vertical takeoff and landing along with the ability to hover. These UAVs include cameras that can take high resolution video or pictures which can be used to map the work site, check job completion, while also giving direct feedback to the operator giving him/her the bird’s eye view, so to speak.
The simple reason drones should be used in construction site is because the line of sight they can give operators. Drones can give the contractor a clear view on site progress, and allow contractors the ability to see an overhead view of the entire site or take the drone up close where it might be dangerous or difficult to get a worker and check whether or not the welding is holding or if a pipe is properly sealed. This could make reporting progress much easier with the ability to actually show it with a picture or video of the work site. Having this line of sight can help contractors track the progress, map the job site, and improve job site safety.
Commercial drones are becoming more and more affordable and having a few thousand dollar drone to take video and get a top down view of the work is a much cheaper option than a manned helicopter. The issue that companies will face is tracking multiple work sites with a drone. Most of these quadcopter drones have flight time between 25 and 45 minutes. They also have to remain in relative distance to the operator or they will lose video connection. Most distances and regulations wouldn’t allow you to fly between work sites so each site would need one or have someone transport it between sites.
It seems to boil down to knowing which projects would benefit from a drone. Obviously any project of a large enough scale like a bridge, where you might normally be hiring a manned helicopter, could benefit greatly from a drone. Drones could easily be used on smaller projects to track progress and send that information to people on the team. With a clear picture of the site it could make planning on a daily basis much easier. Drones can be a great extension to a construction team, offering an easy and safe way to gather images of tough to reach areas. They can help map out your work zone and show real time progress. UAVs are a growing technology around the construction site, like any technology you have to weigh out if it will benefit you or just be a fun piece of equipment.
Another growing technology in the construction industry that might not be as visually impressive as a drone is telematics systems. Telematics systems can offer a line of sight straight into your equipment. So where drones can see the big picture telematics examines each piece of it to make sure it fits properly. Both pieces can work together to give contractors more control over their job site and help improve efficiency.
Telematics can give contractors insight to:
- Equipment location no matter the job site
- How long each piece of equipment is running and splitting that into Idle time vs. Productive time
- When a piece of equipment should get maintenance
- More accurate job costing
- And even if your equipment is being underutilized
Construction management systems can give contractors the line of sight past what lies on the surface and understand what information each piece of equipment holds and how well the operators are using them, where the equipment is and if it’s working towards your goals or just sitting.
Besides showing you information and bringing problems to light these management systems help you to use that information and correct any issues that come up. These systems can be fitted with an array of alerts to let you know what your fleet is doing from being used outside of certain time frames or leaving designated work zones, to idling too much and even if your maintenance is overdue. The information they provide is put into reports that can make planning maintenance, checking idle time of equipment and setting up goals to reduce it, showing daily productivity, and the current status of every piece of equipment in your fleet easy information to find and understand. The best thing about this is that it's all in one place and can be accessed anywhere, anytime.
Earthwave Technologies is a provider of telematics solutions exclusively for the heavy equipment contractor. Our wireless fleet management system, Fleetwatcher, is used to help construction contractors get a better look at their fleet and help them:
- Reduce Idle time
- Cut fuel and equipment costs
- See cycle time and count
- Track fleet location and activity
To help with these areas Fleetwatcher provides reports for our customers to easily read the data and develop a plan to address any problems these reports may highlight.