Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones) were developed in the 70’s for military. Commercial application lagged behind because of the specialized skills required, the cost and regulations required to operate drones for private business. A reduction in cost and size of component parts, advances in battery technology and software development over the past several years has opened up the drone industry to business to leverage automation like never before with drones. Today there are many commercial and construction applications for drones, all of which await government regulation to catch up.
Drones on today’s construction sites are used to capture information about ongoing work (surveying & site monitoring). Though they are a cool, new tool in the construction belt, the data collected is what harbors true value, not the drones themselves.
With the influx of data delivered by drones and robots with Internet connectivity, every construction action can be measured and as a result, construction processes can be measured, assigned value and automated. As new data reveals how humans move through a construction site, costs can be lowered through automating jobs humans used to do (i.e. The New York Bridge’s robotic welders that never sleep).
Data captured through drones, cameras, passive RFID, and heavy machinery monitoring is key to site automation labor reduction, making it possible for any firm, whether it be architecture or heavy equipment manufacturers, to operate a site remotely, using automated technology. Construction Robotics is a good example of robots performing human tasks.
The industry is heading towards a mobile construction yard that is fully automated and furnished with robots, mobile 3d printers, drones and other remotely controlled devices. Humans will serve the machines in feeding the necessary materials needed to construct a building. And as these systems become more complex, humans will need a precise mind to control all the aspects of the construction process. Enter Artificial Intelligence.
The introduction of emerging technologies like drones, big data and automation are creating new challenges for the construction industry. New strategic choices on how to leverage technologies like drones must be made now because new competitors are knocking at your door. There is a War for Data going on and survival rests upon choices architects, engineering firms, construction firms and owners make today. Who are the new competitors? Your vendors, architects, general contractors, subcontractors and any other entity that has capital, skill and experience in the industry and the technical talent or technology to automate what you do, commoditize your service or make your product obsolete. The biggest threat and opportunity lies with the companies that control construction data generated by technology devices like drones. The data collected is what harbors true value, not the drones themselves.
Today any data generated by software, drones and other technology feeds into the BIM model. Whoever owns the BIM model data and associated data from devices holds the keys to the kingdom because they can lease the information your firm generated during the construction process to anyone they choose like service management companies, building owners and even your competition.
Whoever controls the data controls the construction world. In order for your firm to survive and thrive there is a need to understand the capabilities of data, technology, smart-connected devices and automation. You will also need a culture unafraid of change, technical talent with construction experience and a framework for discovering, developing and delivering business value.