How Drones Enhance Improvisation in Construction

August 24, 2019

The construction process requires rigorous checks and tests when it comes to planning, executing, and documenting a project. Each detail of every job site goes through painstaking scrutiny as accuracy is crucial within the industry. One small oversight, the tiniest of hurdles, or a whisper of a setback could delay a project for days, weeks, or even months. Unfortunately, though, these setbacks are common across many construction plans, and project managers are all too aware their improvisational skills will be put to the test at some stage of the construction cycle.

But intuition and gut-feelings only go so far when it comes to tackling obstacles, and many project managers are seeking a competitive edge and citing drones as a major asset when adapting to oversights.

Drone data offers comprehensive, detailed analysis that can guide project managers around any situation, and allow their improvised decisions to be more thoughtful and well-informed, avoiding further setbacks and greatly reducing budget overruns.

Construction companies go through many phases during each of their projects, with the three primary phases being planning or pre-construction, building, and documentation or post-construction.



No matter how much planning goes into a construction site, contractors are inevitably met with obstacles - sometimes small, though sometimes massive.

In several instances, during the planning stages of construction, companies have had to pivot around their original ideas. Whether it be objects otherwise unseen by the human eye, steep slopes in hills where building would be difficult, or severe elevation issues, there are multiple impediments that can be challenging during pre-construction.

DroneDeploy enables these companies to run detailed maps - in 2D, 3D, topographical, or orthomosaic - which is imperative when assessing the overall site. This has minimized the amount of time it takes to gather site survey data, as well as cut down the analysis time, ensuring planners are estimating costs and the time it will take for contractors to get the site ready for construction.



The actual building phase of a construction project is arguably the most complex. In the planning stage, it is much simpler to make adjustments on the fly or redesign a building through maps, drawings, or blueprints. But when construction gets underway, the auditing and overall quality assurance of a project become crucial when hoping to operate efficiently and stay on budget.

One of the biggest issues a construction company can face during building is water damage; this can create a major rework for all parties involved. So if an issue is detected, project managers must be able to pivot fast to keep from holding up production.


Brasfield & Gorrie (B&G), one of the largest privately-held construction firms in the nation, was resuming work on a project that had sat incomplete for nearly a decade when it was noticed what appeared to be a leak or condensation build-up in several glass panels on the 25th floor.

Using traditional methods, B&G would have had to manually inspect it, sending up a worker or workers on an aerial man lift. They had originally budgeted $250,000 for the manual inspection of this building. Instead, the general contractor deployed drones to perform the inspections. This resulted in the entire inspection costing $2,500 -  1% of the original budgeted cost - and also put zero workers at risk.

By using drones, B&G was better positioned to make quick decisions on the job site without having to interrupt construction. The general contractor’s improvisation combined with the detailed data pulled by drones allowed the project to move forward, undisturbed. This was truly an "ah-ha" moment for how drones could be used on the job site beyond simply "pretty pictures.” Since this initial use case, B&G has completed over 750 successful internal job site flights.



Once construction ends, problems do not always subside. Frequently, owners, architects, contractors, and subcontractors can engage in multiple rounds of litigation, adding yet another project expenditure. These occurrences are so common, it is popular for construction companies to build litigation costs into the budget. But since issues on the job site so widely vary, companies are not always aware which, if any, litigation will come their way.

Take, for example, a discrepancy that occurred between Rogers-O’Brien (“RO”) and one of its subcontractors. A subcontractor attempted to charge RO more than the original quote for services to be rendered. In the past, manually surveying land for projects was time-consuming and inaccurate, usually resulting in the owner paying the subcontractor’s quote without the luxury of an accurate verification. But RO found they could avoid the subcontractor’s change order by using DroneDeploy’s maps as visual verification. RO could present these maps to the subcontractor, providing concrete proof the change order was unnecessary, and saving them thousands of dollars.

Realizing the benefits of such documentation, going forward, RO began using drones and DroneDeploy to produce progress photos for enhanced quality assurance. This was a much-needed alternative to the photos they captured from manned aircraft, which previously cost the company an estimated $6,000 per flight.

Jones|Carter, a full-service engineering firm, had a similar discrepancy. A subcontractor claimed to have completed a certain level of earthworks. But using DroneDeploy’s side-by-side feature and Cut/Fill analysis, Jones|Carter provided the subcontractor with proper visual documentation that the work had not been completed, avoiding all overages.


Heightening Your Site

This is not to say intuition and gut-feelings are insignificant qualities on job sites. Considering a contractor’s tenure and experience, they can prove invaluable. But by also deploying drones and capturing data using DroneDeploy, these qualities will no doubt be enhanced. This level of data and insight can heighten the improvisation skills project managers already possess, better positioning the team to make careful, thoughtful decisions.

Want to Learn More?

Read the case study of how, in less than a year, McCarthy Building Companies launched, tested, and expanded a drone program to twenty pilots and proved the ROI of drones across their construction projects.

Or unlock the power of drones today by starting your own trial.

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