Since drones are becoming more and more used at job sites worldwide, construction and engineering companies are beginning to focus more on the benefits of using drone tech. However, the firms that decide to implement drones into their line of work face the challenges of convincing risk-management experts and legal teams that the drones they use will bring more risks and be an unwanted liability.
Since, at this point, there is not enough hard evidence on how the use of drones on work sites actually affects safety, it is rather complicated to present an argument based strictly on numbers. For the firms that rely mostly on statistics, this fact is not encouraging, and they are also waiting for Part 107 to roll out next year so that after the sample size is increased, they can rely on the given data.
If you, as a company owner or leader, still want to implement drone technology and think that it will increase your worksites’ safety, keep in mind that you will actually have advantages as a sort of a pioneer in this field. Here’s how the drones can help you keep your workers safe as well as cut down on your costs.
Dangers on the Site?
According to the 2015. OSHA casualty statistics, from more than 900 construction industry deaths, falls caused almost 400 deaths, making it around 40%. With such a huge percentage, falls represent a serious problem in the construction-related industry.
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It is more than obvious that jobs that include heights are hazardous and that the percentage of such jobs should be minimized as much as possible. However, with the development of drone technology and with the availability of commercial drones with advanced features, a chance to get a much better view of the spots that are difficult to reach and dangerous, without the need of a worker actually climbing up to that spot, is now a reality.
We will not present to you but just a few cases where drones can help the workers by letting them stay safe on the ground and still get the job done.
The most dangerous and difficult part of the building to inspect is the roof, as access to it is usually difficult. In most cases, it requires ladders or scaffolding, which are not always set up properly; thus, the risk of falling is high.
Other situations where it is dangerous to inspect the roof include skylights that are sometimes made of materials that cannot support the worker’s weight, or the roof itself is too damaged and weak. To provide adequate protection for the workers involved in such jobs, which could prevent them from falling down or through the roof, is complicated and comes with high costs.
However, if the drones are used for these types of inspections, the costs would be significantly lower. Still, the workers could easily inspect everything from the ground and even do a better job thanks to various sensors the drones can carry.
Today’s drones are capable of carrying all types of cameras. You have the best quadcopters for GoPro and various infrared and heat signature cameras, Octocopters and Hexacopters for DSLRs and Mirrorless Cameras. They are all capable of streaming live video feed for the operator on the ground. This allows the trained drone operators and inspectors to achieve the same and even better results as if they were up there, where the risk of falling and getting hurt or dead is high.
Furthermore, the aerial camera footage can be later by anyone, including building safety and construction experts, making the result even more precise and effective.
A roof inspection is not the only dangerous job, as there are situations where climbing up a wall is required. That includes scaffolding or suspended scaffolding, ladders, scissor lifts, and other unsafe ways in which drones can help minimize or even completely cut out the risk of falls.
Each year, scaffolding causes falls and the death of workers. Visual inspection is needed to ensure that scaffolding is safe and that the workers are at no risk. With the use of a camera-equipped drone, inspectors can check if fastenings are secured or if all the boards are properly set up without sending someone up first.
Also, in some cases, for example, when a certain building’s walls need to be inspected, the drone actually eliminates the use of scaffolding.
When it comes to tall buildings, in most cases, the windows cannot be opened from the inside, meaning that their inspection is quite complicated and needs to be done from the outside. Instead of sending a worker to inspect and endanger himself, inspectors can use drones to check if the window insulation has cracks, if there’s weatherstripping, or if the glass itself is damaged.
Crumbling or Unstable Surfaces
In some cases, drones can be used to create 3D models, for example, a dilapidated dam. In such cases, if the dam is too risky for workers to walk on, and the data cannot be collected from the water, the inspectors can acquire the needed data from the air by using a camera-equipped drone. This way, no one is at risk of getting hurt or killed, and the company saves the budget by not being forced to rent an expensive helicopter for the task.
Stockpile Volume Assessment
When it comes to calculating the volume of stockpiles such as aluminum rods, gravel, sugar beets, rock salt, or anything else for that matter, the process usually includes a worker, loaded with heavy gear, climbing on top of the pile. Needless to say that this, in many cases, ends up with incidents.
On the other hand, using a drone for this type of job will not only result in reliable and accurate data, but it will also allow the surveyors to stay safely down on the ground, outside of the risk zone while doing their job.
Wrapping It Up
This post explained how UAVs or drones allow workers, inspectors, or surveyors to have a set of eyes in the air without risking themselves. But, the truth is, drones can offer even more, as they can be equipped with a plethora of sensors, which allow us to see what we wouldn’t with the naked eye.
For example, if a project is close to completion, a thermal sensor-equipped drone can spot the hot and cold spots in the roof insulation and act accordingly. Such a drone can likewise be used to assess the solar panel array efficiency of a solar panel array.
In the end, in all the situations we talked about, the use of drone technology allows for the process of inspection to be conducted in a much safer and more efficient way, plus, the inspections can be performed more frequently as the costs are significantly lower and there’s no human risk involved.