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BLOG: Is a Drone the Right Choice For Your Company?

There are some pros and cons to consider before purchasing a new drone for your company.

Thu July 14, 2016 - National Edition
Megan Wild

Consumer-grade aerial drones, which are quickly growing in popularity, are already being used in a wide variety of industries, sectors and jobs. When used in combination with next-gen digital imaging tools, their usefulness increases exponentially. This is especially true on the construction site, where drones are used for everything from the initial site survey to the final exterior inspection. However, there are some pros and cons to consider before purchasing a new drone for your company.

Site Surveying

Site surveying, logistics planning and initial hazard inspections can all benefit immensely from the use of an aerial drone. In fact, a 2015 report states that nearly half of all respondents are already using drones in their initial planning and surveying processes.

There is also the safety aspect of the surveying process to consider. Because aerial drones can reach areas that are hazardous or challenging for humans, the entire surveying and planning phase can be made much safer than before.

Nate Olson, a general manager at Chicago Industrial says this of the increased use of drones, "I work directly with customers who manage construction sites. Learning from their experiences, I think that drone photography can help improve worksite safety for workers and equipment by providing a thorough site survey. Preventing injuries to workers and damage to equipment are definitely huge benefits that must be considered."

Despite the effectiveness and reliability of drone-based surveying and planning, though, drones are still no substitute for workers on the ground. The skilled eyes and past experiences of these individuals can spot flaws, hazards or nuances that are easily missed through drone-based imaging.

Rules and Regulations

Believe it or not, there was a time when there were virtually no regulations or restrictions regarding the flight and operation of aerial drones. Although this was during the infancy of aerial drone technology, it's easy to imagine the potential hazards when faced with hundreds or thousands of drones occupying the same airspace at once. That's exactly why new rules and regulations are being established nearly every single day.

In fact, aerial drones are still rather loosely regulated. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there are currently no pilot requirements whatsoever when operating an aerial drone for fun or recreation as long as the aircraft is less than half a pound. However, when operating an aerial drone for business or work purposes, the controller must be at least 16 years of age and possess an active Remote Pilot Airman Certificate.

Apart from new regulations, there are also new rules that operators must become familiar with in order to operate an aerial drone in a safe manner. For example, aerial drones are not permitted within five miles of an airport without a proper notification. The drone must always be visible to the naked eye of the operator and all drones must weigh under 55 lbs. Additionally, operators must abide by any local or community regulations that may apply to drone operation within specific neighborhoods.

Monitoring / Verifying Presence of Workers

Because drones are capable of transmitting video through a live feed, you can use these devices as a highly effective means of gauging productivity and even verifying the presence of your workers on a day-to-day basis. Moreover, drones can be used to ensure the delivery of construction materials and monitor overall project progress.

If you do use a drone to monitor the productivity of your workers, make sure to use it sparingly. Misusing such a device, or using it too much, may cause strife amongst your employees. If they start to get the feeling that you are constantly looking over their shoulder, even if it is through the lens of a next-gen drone, they might begin to rebel.

Exterior Inspection

Finally, today's aerial drones can even be used to inspect the exterior of your newly finished construction projects. This is true on all types of construction projects, though the practice is typically reserved for larger structures and areas.

Again, however, the drone is no replacement for a trained human eye. Even with high-resolution digital imaging, drones are still capable of missing some of the finer details. Moreover, live data streams might lag, stutter, freeze or lose contact entirely, while saved data is always susceptible to corruption and even physical damage.

The Future of Drone Photography

While it's difficult to guess how drone photography will advance over the next few years, especially with the establishment of new laws and regulations regarding drone usage, it's safe to say that the innovation is certainly here to say. Moreover, with the prices of consumer-grade aerial drones plummeting, now might be the best time to buy.

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