JDI Matrice 200 drone flying above pine trees with mountains in the background
Written by David Dengler

Drone Subcontracting

Outsourcing Drone Services for Efficiency and Cost Savings

Can an architect design his own structural system or HVAC system? Yes, he can. Can the same architect also go out to the site and dig the foundations and nail the framing together? Sure. He can do all of those things. But, is it really the best use of his time and abilities? No, clearly not. This is why we have subcontractors that specialize in their own fields of disciplines, like drone services.

Subcontracting in architecture and construction is very common place. Typically, architects will subcontract the structural design and calculations to a structural engineer. Likewise, the architect will subcontract the HVAC design and Title-24 calculations. A general contractor will subcontract many disciplines: grading, concrete, framing, electrical, plumbing, etc. This workflow has proven to be very efficient, and equates to cost savings for the owner. By allowing specialized individuals to work on the various pieces of the project, quality increases as does cost savings.

This allows the architect to focus on what he does best – creating great architecture. He doesn’t need to be bogged down with the nuts and bolts of the structural system, or the loading of the HVAC system. The same goes for the general contractor – the subcontractors take care of the small details freeing up the GC to oversee the big picture.

Real world data collection using drone services, or reality capture as we will call it, is another piece of the subcontracting puzzle that is easy to add into your workflow.

Drones can be subcontracted for many uses:

  • Site selection
  • Mapping (photomosaic)
  • Feasibility studies
  • Determining or verifying view corridors
  • Shooting still and moving images for promotional uses
  • Following the grading process
  • Tracking cut and fill
  • Volume calculations
  • Creating point clouds and DTM’s
  • Verifying the construction process, (i.e. “Was all the rebar placed correctly?”)
  • and the list goes on and on.

All of this information adds up to big savings and winning jobs. And by subcontracting, you can leverage the technology without the burden of setting up an in-house program.

The FAA has done a fantastic job of keeping the skies above the United States safe and they take the flying of drones very serious. Drone technology has advanced rapidly in the past few years. These remotely piloted, small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS, as they are titled by the FAA) are no longer toys or simple flying cameras. They are complex data gathering robots capable of flying autonomous missions almost anywhere.

By using drone services throughout the construction process, you have a running history of the project. You can follow the project’s progress over time and communicate the progress to the owners and other stake holder using web-based tools – no site visits necessary. You can discover problems early, and solve them before they become costly.

JDI-Matrice-200-hovering-near-control-unit

Then, beyond mission planning and flying the drone, there is the data processing done post flight. Taking hundreds of images and processing them into a orthomosaic (a flattened map that is scale accurate) that can be imported into CAD/BIM software, must be done properly for accuracy or the flight was useless and time wasted. This takes specialized software to perform the photogrammetry.

Again, having the thorough understanding of the flight equipment and mission planning is required for the software to analyze the imagery properly so that you get the results you need: orthomosaic map, point cloud, .obj model, volume analysis, etc.

Good reasons to subcontract drone technology:

  • Navigating the laws and regulations of FAA part 107
  • Holding current flying credentials (being licensed to fly)
  • Understanding airspace classifications
  • How to acquire airspace authorization and filling a flight plan
  • Understanding weather and flying conditions
  • Knowing which drone and equipment to use to capture accurate and usable data
  • Drone and equipment maintenance
  • Staying current on technology
  • Safety, safety, safety
  • Emergency procedures, like how to handle a fly-away (bye, bye, drone).

Putting it all together, running an effective drone program is a specialized discipline. It’s not something that you can pass off to one of your team members as an extra hat to wear if you expect great results. That’s why you subcontract the professionals to get the job done right the first time and win projects, complete projects on time and under budget, and keep happy clients.

Simplify your life by outsourcing your drone services to AEC technology firms, like Kelar Pacific.

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