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Use of Drones in Civil Engineering

Drones in Civil Engineering

Table of Contents

Use of Drones in the Construction Industry

Types of drones used in the construction industry

Utilizing drone technology in the construction industry

Building Surveys

Topographic Mapping and Land Surveys

Construction Site Inspections

Innovative Drones in Construction Industry

How Drones may assist to expedite the construction process


Use of Drones in the Construction Industry

New digital technologies have emerged during the past few decades to increase productivity, decrease total time and cost, and streamline many construction-related processes. Although drones have been widely used in other industries (such as agriculture, public safety, military objectives, science and research, monitoring security, mining, etc.), their entry into the construction business was relatively recent.


Inspection of highways, bridges, roads, cell towers, high mast lighting, wind turbines, power transmission lines, building façade and roof, survey and mapping, construction monitoring, wetland/environmental, drainage and erosion, traffic monitoring, emergency services, etc. are just some of the many applications of aerial vehicles in the construction industry.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are incredibly useful since they can see over large areas that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to see. Overhead views from UAVs and 360-degree panoramas convey a true picture of the situation. This data helps engineering teams set priorities. Remote workers, in-house staff, and contractors can access operator photos. Photogrammetry techniques can be applied to drone photographs and 3D scanned point clouds to produce a 3D model.

This "drone model" can be compared to BIM at different stages of construction. Adding real-time recording, reporting, invoicing, verification, and planning does not affect the construction timeline and price comparison. Construction is built on human ties between project stakeholders.

Digital tools and procedures can't totally replace humans, but they're vital for higher job quality, lower costs and risk, better decision-making, less time on repetitive activities, etc. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can assemble building elements, locate and capture a flying object, and build a rope bridge, according to experts. Modern UAVs are highly automated, providing access to previously unreachable regions while gathering data quickly. But they're good for more.

Drones have become increasingly popular in the construction industry as they offer a range of benefits that can help improve efficiency, accuracy, and safety on construction sites. Here are some of the most common uses of drones in the construction industry:

  1. Site inspections: Drones equipped with high-resolution cameras can provide detailed aerial images of construction sites, allowing project managers to monitor progress and identify potential issues. This can help with project planning, risk management, and quality control.

  2. Surveying and mapping: Drones can be used to create accurate 3D maps and models of construction sites, which can be used for surveying and planning purposes. This can save time and money compared to traditional surveying methods. 

  3. Monitoring and tracking: Drones can be used to track materials, equipment, and personnel on construction sites, which can help improve logistics and resource management.

  4. Safety inspections: Drones can be used to inspect hard-to-reach areas of construction sites, such as roofs and high-rise structures, which can help identify potential safety hazards. They can provide high-resolution images and videos to identify structural issues, cracks, and other defects. This technology can improve safety and reduce the need for costly scaffolding and crane setups.

  5. Progress reporting: Drones can be used to create time-lapse videos and progress reports, which can be shared with stakeholders and investors to provide an overview of the project.

  6. Safety and Security: Drones can be equipped with sensors and cameras to monitor construction sites for safety hazards, such as unsecured materials or personnel working in hazardous areas. They can also be used to detect unauthorized access to the construction site, improving security.

Overall, drones can provide significant benefits to the construction industry, including improved efficiency, accuracy, and safety. As technology continues to advance, it's likely that we will see even more innovative uses for drones in construction.


Types of drones used in the construction industry

Drone technology has been one of the most promising developments in the building industry in recent years. The construction business has witnessed the largest increase in drone utilization among major industries, at about 240%. The advantages and capacities of drone flight are so useful in building that they are revolutionizing the industry.

Despite the plethora of drones available, the construction industry is a major user of commercial drones. There are several ways to categorise drones, such as those designed for photography, aerial mapping, surveillance, military use, etc. However, aerial platforms provide the most accurate categorization of drones.

There are four main categories of drones based on the airborne platform they use:

  • fixed-wing Drone,
  • multi-rotor Drone,
  • single-rotor Drone, and
  • fixed-wing hybrid vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) Drone

The most popular drones, whether for recreation or commercial aerial mapping, are multi-rotor drones. Multi-rotors are frequently used for aerial photography, video recording, and surveying.

Drones can be broken down into subcategories based on the number of rotors they have:

  • Tricopters Drones have three rotors,
  • Quadcopters Drones have four rotors,
  • Hexacopters Drones have six rotors, and
  • Octocopters Drones have eight rotors

Multi-rotor drones' endurance and top speed are two of their biggest drawbacks. These characteristics make these drones unsuitable for large-scale aerial mapping projects, such as those involving pipelines, roads, electricity lines, motorways, etc.

Though drone technology is constantly developing, multi-rotor drones still require significant pilot input to maintain flight. Multirotor drones can only stay in the air for 20-30 minutes at the most right now, and that's depending on the drone and camera's weight.

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Utilizing drone technology in the construction industry

Building Surveys

Virtually any inspection of a building's structure or systems will be rendered futile if the inspector is unable to see the roof. In most situations, getting up onto the roof is a difficult and time-consuming process that necessitates the use of scaffolding, ladders, or other auxiliary structures that can be potentially dangerous and expensive.

Building surveying of the roof structure and gaining access to complex or hard-to-reach portions of the roof can be time-consuming and expensive, with associated health and safety issues.

The normal practice calls for a set of overlapping flight strips to capture the entire roof from above. In this scenario, 100 aerial photographs are required using automated mode. The manual mode is used to create oblique aerial photographs.

Topographic Mapping and Land Surveys

Complex building projects benefit from topographical maps. Topographic maps might reveal unsuitable construction ideas. Building topographic maps can be expensive and time-consuming, despite their usefulness. Drone technology is helpful here.

This reduces the cost of acquiring information and executing initiatives. Drones provide on-time, under-budget, and precise project completion. High-quality drone aerial photos can be used to create 3D models of the surface (DSM) or terrain (DTM).

importance of surveying

Construction Site Inspections

Construction site inspections can benefit from drones. If you have a professional pilot, you can use the drone to spot structural or technical concerns on the building site and to inspect progress. Drone inspections save thousands on redesigns and course modifications. Drones can improve safety by eliminating the need to access potentially dangerous work areas.

Thanks to advances in technology, drones can be used to evaluate a building site's adherence to a plan or model, develop 3D representations of future construction projects, and more. By visually examining high-risk areas of a construction site or newly-built structure, drones save time and reduce health and safety concerns. High-definition aerial photos can be recorded and disseminated from the site cabin. Site inspections can be more frequent and thorough. Four main benefits of drone construction inspections: Better security saves time, effort, and data.

Innovative Drones in Construction Industry

Here are some innovative ways that drones are being used in the construction industry:

  1. Thermal Imaging: Drones equipped with thermal cameras can be used to detect and monitor heat loss in buildings, identify insulation defects, and detect water damage. This can help identify potential energy-saving opportunities and prevent costly repairs.

  2. LiDAR Scanning: LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology uses laser sensors to create highly accurate 3D maps and models of construction sites. This can help improve site planning, design, and construction.

  3. Autonomous Drones: Autonomous drones can fly pre-programmed routes and take high-resolution images or videos of construction sites, reducing the need for manual piloting. This can save time and reduce the risk of accidents.

  4. Material Delivery: Drones can be used to transport small tools, parts, and materials to remote or hard-to-reach areas of construction sites. This can save time and reduce the risk of injury associated with manual handling.

  5. Real-time Monitoring: Drones equipped with sensors can be used to monitor construction sites in real-time, providing insights into factors such as temperature, humidity, and air quality. This can help identify potential safety hazards and optimize construction processes.

Overall, drones provide the construction industry with various innovative and useful applications. As technology continues to improve, we can expect to see even more innovative uses for drones in construction.

How Drones may assist to expedite the construction process

Drones have the potential to expedite the construction process in several ways:

  1. Site Inspection: Drones can quickly and easily inspect a construction site, providing high-resolution images and videos that can identify potential issues and obstacles. This information can be used to make informed decisions, such as altering the design or construction methods to avoid delays.

  2. Progress Monitoring: Drones can capture aerial images and videos of the construction site at regular intervals, providing a comprehensive overview of the progress of the project. This can help project managers identify areas where work may be lagging behind and take corrective action before it becomes a major delay.

  3. Volumetric Calculations: Drones can also capture data that can be used to calculate the volume of materials needed for the project, such as earthworks or concrete pours. This can help project managers order the correct amount of materials and avoid delays caused by shortages.

  4. Safety and Compliance: Drones can be used to ensure that construction activities are compliant with safety regulations and environmental requirements. This can help avoid delays caused by non-compliance or legal issues.

  5. Delivery Management: Drones can also be used to expedite the delivery of materials and equipment to the construction site, reducing the amount of time workers spend waiting for deliveries.

Drones can significantly reduce the time required for site inspection, progress monitoring, and compliance checks, allowing construction projects to be completed faster and more efficiently.


Drones are a technological innovation in civil engineering. Because they can collect data fast and accurately while decreasing safety risks, their use in construction will rise. New technologies are cautiously implemented into construction production or workflows. Unmanned aerial vehicle technology is a cost-effective, time-saving solution that improves construction security and administration.


Due to their many benefits, drones are becoming more widespread in construction. Construction firms use drones for topographic terrain mapping, building surveys, land surveys, construction site inspections, remote monitoring, progress reports, thermal image recording, and laser scanner integration. Engineers, contractors, investors, and clients may save time, money, danger, and labour with drones.


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Founder at gcelab.com, Pooja is an Entrepreneur unlocking human potential. Working in the Principles of Lean Start-up, Pooja believes in Transparency and User Happiness the most. Pooja’s background in teaching gives her a sophisticated grasp on even the most tedious aspect of course building. She is passionate about people who believe that good is not enough.

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