Commercial UAV Expo: Growing Integration of Drones in Construction

Drones are being integrated across the construction industry like never before, according to a panel of experts speaking at the Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada this week.

“Drones have really become construction’s Swiss army knife,” said John Rygg, Technology Strategist, KIEWIT Technology Group. “Companies are starting to recognize the value and realize that even with something as simple as inspecting a water leak, you can get a drone up and inspect an issue quickly without putting anyone in danger.”

Rygg was joined by fellow panelists Richard Lopez, virtual design and construction manager at Hensel Phelps, and Douglas Spotted Eagle, director of educational programming at Sundance Media Group, LLC, and Dave Henderson, director of sales for Geospatial Solutions at Topcon Positioning Systems moderated the discussion. 

All early adopters of drone programs within their companies, the panelists took time to share best practices and acknowledge the value that drones can bring to companies of all sizes.

“You’re talking to two of the largest U.S. construction companies in the US here,” said Spotted Eagle, referring to his fellow panelists. “But if you are that person who’s a residential contractor, don’t think for one second that UAS don’t benefit or can’t benefit the workflow that you are involved in as well.”

The group discussed personal lessons learned over the years as they paved the way for implementing a drone program, including: how to best analyze the data and use analytics, the benefits and challenges of using drones, compliance with FAA regulations, various application opportunities, safety considerations, required training, emerging technologies, use cases and how to harness drones to improve overall business. 

“We’re definitely seeing a vast movement,” said Lopez. “What this technology has done is it’s been able to give us information rapidly. What once took weeks we’re able to gather and process in hours. On the analytics side, it’s allowing us to make decisions quicker as well.”

During final comments, Lopez noted that he’s been attending drone conferences for the past decade—since the inception of his company’s drone program—and had never seen so many construction companies tap into the power of drones as he saw in the audience at this year’s expo.

“More people within the construction industry at events like this is going to inspire the developers, product and software designers to come up with new products that allow us to take our industry to the next level,” he said. “We’re just at the infancy of all this technology and it’s definitely going to grow into something bigger and brighter for all of us. I’m excited to see what’s to come.”

This was one among many sessions at the expo, spanning industries such as energy, agriculture, surveying and mapping, agriculture and utilities. A full program of the conference is available here.