Engineering Opportunities for UAVs

The potential for using UAVs within the civil engineering industry is significant yet their use is currently relatively limited. The main reason behind this is a lack of awareness of their potential and the range of benefits that they can bring, even though, right through from planning to final construction, nearly every stage of the engineering process can benefit from the use of a UAV.

A Change of Scale

It is worthy of note that in fact a number of the tasks that a UAV could do are already taking place on large projects, BUT they are carried out by full sized airplanes and helicopters; these include aerial mapping, LiDAR scanning and video and photography for marketing purposes.

Introducing a UAV will not only have benefits for large projects where they will bring down costs but it also means that these tasks can be carried out cost effectively on projects of almost any scale. UAVs enable data to be collected for virtually any site due to the small take-off and landing zone requirements. Furthermore, large amounts of detailed data can be collected in very short periods of time. One of the big advantages of using a UAV is the rapid turnaround in data, particularly for vital infrastructure and other time sensitive projects. Furthermore, the camera’s ability to provide live images means that those who need to inspect a structure can do so without having to go aloft themselves – bringing health and safety advantages.

Aerial Mapping & Photography now a reality for all Projects

Aerial photography is one of the best ways to monitor a construction site, building or civil engineering project yet typically engineers rely on expensive and difficult to plan manned systems to conduct aerial photography or LiDAR missions or labour intensive ground based data collection.

An aerial overview is a fantastic tool for a project manager to, amongst other things:

  • Explore the site before the project starts
  • Monitor and control the progression of work and incidents
  • Present an overview of the site
  • Check on work quality
  • Easily measure work progress against deadlines
  • Monitor the compliance of work with the specifications
  • Share information, skills and knowledge for future projects
  • Quickly carry out topographic and other surveys
  • Carry out volumetric analysis
Essentially as UAVs reduce costs, aerial mapping and photography can be a reality for all projects.

Recency & Frequency

Accurate and detailed geospatial information is a key element of all civil engineering projects.  At present budget constraints generally mean that even large projects are currently usually only flown once, yet with a UAV it is affordable, to use mapping applications (2D imagery or 3D surfaces) in a more dynamic way with multiple flights throughout the project life. This means that imagery & data is more up to date which can help to track construction progress more cost effectively.