Posted & filed under Civil Engineering.

These days, everyone’s familiar with drones. You’ve likely seem them in your day to day life, whether it’s a child flying a toy version in a nearby park or a videographer getting a few choice shots at a concert. These Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are excellent for a variety of uses, from recreational to professional, and more and more industries are finding a use for them. That includes civil engineering!

One of the major benefits of drones is their ability to get an aerial view of areas that are normally difficult or impossible to navigate on foot or with land vehicles. When equipped with a camera, drones are capable of surveying these spaces and taking photos to better help engineers gauge the lay of the land. They help spot potential hazards, locate areas of access, and show what’s going on in real-time so that surveyors can make educated decisions about how to approach the land. These images can be shared internally or with sub-contractors so everyone’s on the same page.

Drones are making great leaps and bounds in becoming invaluable assistive technology. An advanced drone can move quickly, hover, and adjust its photographic equipment from the air with the assistance of a remote control. They can also be fitted with sensors that can take any number of readings and transmit that data to a ready analyst. They’re able to achieve great heights to get amazing 360-degree shots of an area, far more than any surveyor could get from a single location on the ground.

Not only are drones convenient and efficient, they’re also environmentally friendly, reducing the need to drive manned vehicles to multiple sites. The images they produce are high-resolution and accurate, providing a current scope of the land. In addition, they greatly reduce the level of risk associated with workers attempting to reach potentially dangerous areas.

All this makes it that much easier and faster to survey potential construction sites or identify property boundaries in more difficult areas. They can also help in cartography, assisting surveyors create some of the most accurate topographic and hydrographic maps possible. For an industry that’s always been heavily reliant on manpower to get the job done, this technology is a very welcome aid.

The question of cost is an important one for any business, and effective drones are by no means inexpensive. However, they’re also not cost-prohibitive, and the potential benefits far outweigh the cost. Many models can be downright affordable when you consider the spared manpower and hours spent surveying. There’s no doubt that this technology is rapidly entering the civil engineering industry, and we have little doubt we’ll start seeing them with regularity soon.

Don’t worry: drones won’t make surveying jobs obsolete. Not every job can be accomplished quickly using drones, so manned surveying jobs will still be frequently used. However, they’ll certainly make the job easier.