With the 2017 BuildWorlds Summit rapidly approaching, I wanted to share some of my experiences on how on-demand imagery and data from drones has already benefitted organizations in the roofing, paving, HVAC, construction and real estate industries.
One question I am frequently asked at conferences is “How do you see the commercial drone market developing and what are you seeing?” Whenever I respond to this question, I often compare the adoption drones to digital cameras.
Much like drones, digital cameras had been on the market for decades. The concept of digital cameras came out in the 1960s and in the 1970s they started to become productized. Even though digital cameras had been on the market for over 20 years, they still only had a tiny sliver of the market in 1995 as you can see in the chart below.
Between 1998–2002 though, we start seeing the growth of digital and the drop off of analog. While digital cameras took decades to develop, once the technology got to a certain point, it just took off.
The recent adoption of drones for commercial purposes follows the same pattern as digital cameras. While drones have been around for decades, they were mainly used for military purposes, and more recently, hobbyists. Based on my experiences in the field, two big turning points in the acceptance of drones for had to do with the following:
It was illegal to fly drones for commercial purposes without special permission until the passage of FAA Part 107. Now that there are specific set of rules and regulations around done usage (without the need to acquire a pilot’s license) and consumer grade hardware has improved enough to be used for commercial purposes, we are starting to see drones gather momentum in the marketplace much like digital cameras in the late 90s.
One of the biggest, and most important, benefits we have seen with drones has been in worksite risk mitigation. In the most recent Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) report, there were 937 fatal work injuries in the private construction industry in 2015. The four most common accidents were:
- Struck by Object
While having eyes in the skies may seem intrusive, OSHA estimates eliminating these 4 types of accidents can save 602 workers’ lives a year! In addition, to mitigating worksite risk, some of the most common applications of drones I have seen include:
- Estimating Projects: High quality imagery and data can help identify topographical issues before construction starts, uncover hidden moisture & electrical issues, and provide accurate measurements of roofs and parking lots with approximately 30 minutes of onsite data capture with a drone.
- Monitoring & Communicating Construction Progress: Project managers can’t be onsite all of the time. Imagery and data from drones allows project managers to communicate daily progress reports to key stakeholders and check the quality of work in dangerous and hard to reach places.
- Business Development: Instead of contractors going onsite and spending hours manually measuring a roofs or parking lots, drones have been used to gather measurements quickly and easily, allowing contractors to focus more building rapport with prospects.
- Marketing: After completing projects “before” and “after” photos are sent to the client to show them how their money was invested. Not only are these photos a great way to win more business from customers, but they also provide organizations with a digital portfolio, which can be used for marketing purposes.
The examples above are just some of the ways service firms in construction and real estate industries are using drones. As more companies move from concept to real production use in late 2017 and early 2018, I expect to see organizations finding new ways to leverage drones throughout a project’s lifecycle.
For more information about the future of drones, check out my panel presentation “The Next Generation of Tools” at the BuildWorld Summit in Chicago on Thursday May 4th or send us an email at email@example.com to see how BetterView’s software platform and 4,400+ drone network can benefit your organization.