Drones Are Being Used in Construction, but Will the Government Allow It?

By: | June 7th, 2018


By Alexander Glinz (photo by Alexander Glinz / uploaded by Joadl) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0 at], via Wikimedia Commons

Depending on whom you ask, drones are either the best invention in the world or the worst. They’ve earned a bad reputation for their use in combat, and for foolish pilots who do things like land their drones on the White House lawn. But drones are also changing the way we look at several different industries, from package delivery to construction. How is the construction industry using these versatile flying robots, and what sort of federal hurdles are in the way?

Drone Uses in Construction

While we don’t have a drone that can complete construction projects for us — not yet, at least — there are still plenty of uses for an airborne robot on a construction site, including:

  • Planning and logistics — Uneven terrain doesn’t hinder drones, so they are invaluable tools for surveying a new construction site to find obstacles to be removed or areas to be leveled before construction can begin. With the proper cameras equipped, drones can even create a 3D map for design and rendering.
  • Security — Security cameras are only as good as their view range. Traditional stationary cameras can leave blind spots that can compromise security. Drones don’t have those limitations.
  • Transportation — Drones can carry lightweight items to and from the construction site. Not only does this improve worker efficiency, but it also increases safety — especially if the delivery is going to a worker who is high above the ground. Instead of having to climb all the way down, get what you need, and climb back up, you can have the drone can bring the item up.
  • Inspection — Regular inspections help ensure the job is getting done right the first time. But why waste time having an inspector come to the job site when they can complete their inspection remotely by drone?

These are just a few examples of possible drone applications on a construction site — but there are still a few hurdles to overcome before these tools can start becoming more commonplace on job sites across the country.

Federal Hurdles

In the U.S., one issue that has prevented drones from being adopted for construction purposes is a Federal Avionics Administration regulation. A certificate of authorization from the FAA is required to operate a drone for non-recreational uses. And large drones, even ones people use recreationally, require this same certification.

There is only one drone that is currently legal to use for commercial applications without the certificate from the FAA. Any construction sites that want to use drones as part of their toolset must either obtain a certificate of authorization for each drone on their job site, or they can opt to use the Trimble UX5 drone, which the FAA has already approved.

Drones are here to stay, and we will probably see more of them in the future, whether they’re delivering our Amazon packages or building that new apartment complex down the block. We’re living in the future, and the future includes drones.

Marshall Smith

Technology, engineering, and design enthusiast.

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