If you could employ a machine to manage construction projects from above, keep the site safe, ensure OSHA compliance and even assess damages should there be an accident on site, how much would it cost?

Not much – these days anyway.

No longer exclusive to military defense and police surveillance, drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are now more affordable than ever and construction firms are employing them at a greater rate to improve efficiencies and serve as an extra set of eyes for project managers and site operators. The construction industry has experienced the largest growth in drone usage, increasing by 239 percent year over year.1

Regulated by the FAA, and in Canada, the Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA) drones must be registered before flight, can only fly at or below 400 feet and are subject to a number of local and FAA Airspace Restrictions. Despite these limitations, the number of construction firms, insurance companies and brokers chartering drone flights has skyrocketed (pun intended). The FAA estimates the drone revolution will hit $82 billion by 2025.2

When it comes to construction, drones are uniquely positioned to aid:

Project management. Currently the greatest use of drones in construction is for project management. Used in real time to assess the progress of a site under construction, drones provide a unique birds eye view for project managers both on and off-site.

Land surveys. From early on in the bid process through construction, using a drone for an aerial land survey will be less costly than chartering a plane and pilot, while the results are delivered in a shorter time frame as well. Most importantly, a drone may be able to assess areas of concern on the site that are invisible to the naked eye. Drones in construction can employ thermographic cameras and other skilled lenses to obtain otherwise inaccessible views.

Enforce safety. From perimeter and night security to accessing vulnerabilities during work hours, drones can be used on construction sites to maintain secure perimeters. Drones in construction can also be used to identify hazards on the site, and enforce safety on site, including wall and window openings that haven’t been enclosed, netting integrity, daily scaffolding inspections and more. These hazards are often missed on a visual inspection and could take hours of a site manager’s time to uncover.

Ensure compliance. OSHA recently authorized the use of drones in construction by some of its inspectors to collect enforcement evidence in areas that are inaccessible, or that pose a safety risk to inspection personnel. OSHA must obtain express consent from the employer prior to using a drone during inspection. In addition, personnel on site must be notified of the aerial inspection prior to the drone’s launching.

Underwriting. When an insurance broker can prove a construction site is doing everything possible to mitigate risk and get ahead of potential liabilities, the case for premium reduction is that much more viable. Documented findings from a drone flight can accompany a concrete action plan for improvement, and can serve as an acceptable underwriter property assessment tool.

Claims and post-damage assessment. Carriers and brokers alike are investing internal resources and partnering with drone companies to alleviate the demand of assessors during CAT events, like hurricanes, wildfires and construction accidents. Drone documentation of damaged areas and accidents provides claims adjusters with everything they need to adjust a claim from their desk, hours away from the site and at a reduced timeline.

Increase efficiencies and champion safety. For construction companies and related insurance underwriters and brokers, drones are increasing efficiencies, championing safety and serving as a second set of eyes. And it’s only the beginning. As drone costs continue to come down and their technological capabilities continue to rise, they will continue to be employed across the construction market in at the rate of 239 percent year over year.

Contact your HUB Construction Specialist to find out how your firm can leverage drones for proactive due diligence on a potential or existing property.

1 https://www.cnbc.com/2018/07/08/how-drone-photography-is-carving-a-niche-in-construction.html
2 https://www.inman.com/next/3-things-to-know-before-you-hire-your-next-drone-pilot/