For the general public, drones are likely considered a novelty—a fun, albeit expensive toy that can fly around and capture cinematic videos. But this technology’s capabilities go far beyond such prosaic uses.
In fact, in the field of engineering, there are limitless potential applications. Today, we’ll review our modern relationship with drones through this specific industrial lens.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), colloquially referred to as drones, are an expansive category. From toy drones that cost $50, to high-tech, industrial drones costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, there’s a wide assortment of machines on the market. These can vary according to a range of factors, including:
With the advance of this technology, various industries soon saw the potential advantages and conveniences such machines offered. And the engineering industry was no exception. Drones have been successfully used to reduce costs, optimize processes, mitigate safety risks, improve decision-making, and more. This is likely why the drone services market size is expected to grow to $63.6 billion by 2025.
So, what are specific benefits and use cases for engineers?
Champion Worker Safety
Drones make it possible to easily reach areas that would be difficult to navigate or hazardous for humans. For instance, it enables engineering teams to perform a remote inspection on massive structures like bridges, aqueducts, signal towers, and dams. As the CDC notes, “UAV technology could help reduce construction-related injury and death from falls, toxic chemical exposures, electrical hazards, or traumatic injury from vehicle and equipment collisions.”
Drones can automate and optimize tasks that may have once been dangerous, laborious, and time-consuming. As William J. Sutton, VP of Mowery Construction notes, “Drones can survey sites in about 30 minutes to an hour and get a pretty good sense of the topography and the environmental situation, as well as get good data. In the past, it would take a week or two to survey a property and to find boundaries and things like that.”
While there are hundreds of potential use cases, a few common engineering applications include:
- Stockpile monitoring – Can be used to measure volumes, track inventory, plan deliveries, and prevent theft.
- Topographic surveys and 3d mapping – Can be used to survey land, evaluate distances, or plan a new worksite.
- Traffic monitoring – Can be used to make efficient decisions in real-time.
- Gas emission monitoring – Can be used to conduct thermal imaging of towers and platforms to prevent leaks or worker exposure.
Improve Decision Making
The more information you have, the better decision you can make. And here, having the most up-to-date info is essential.
Drones make it possible for engineering and construction companies to capture large swaths of video and environmental data in real-time. This affords greater visibility over a project, enabling them to stay on top of day-to-day operations, even if remote.
Armed with more relevant data, project leaders and managers can then make informed project choices that are aligned with both the end goals and worker safety.
MFS Engineering—Leveraging Modern Technology
At MFS Engineering, we understand the value that modern tools like drones can bring to an engineering project, whether it’s for land surveying, structural engineering, or geotechnical drilling.
As a business, it’s both our drive and responsibility to take necessary measures to protect workers, optimize our processes, and improve our final product. We’re committed to using every technology at our disposal in order to accomplish those ends.
If you wish to learn more about how we have successfully incorporated drones into our field, feel free to contact us today!
Business Insider. Drone market outlook in 2021: industry growth trends, market stats, and forecast. https://www.businessinsider.com/drone-industry-analysis-market-trends-growth-forecasts
CDC. Can Drones Make Construction Safer? https://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/2017/10/23/drones-construction/
In-House Counsel. Aerial drones, new tech changes the scope of construction engineering. https://molawyersmedia.com/missouriinhouse/2021/03/24/aerial-drones-new-tech-changes-scope-construction-engineering/