12-09-2020

Drones: A Bird’s Eye View For Construction

Drone

In today’s information age, small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS), commonly referred to as drones, provide vital information for improving safety, productivity, and innovation here at Parsons. With the additional insights and perspectives gathered by drones, our project teams are improving their efficiency and spending more time solving unique problems for our clients and less time on costly, risky, and repetitive tasks.

From improving construction productivity to conducting safer, more efficient inspections, our drone team has been utilizing this technology to deliver a better world. We won a competitive bridge inspection contract in a remote wilderness environment by utilizing a smaller team equipped with a sUAS. Drone technology greatly enhanced the team’s operational safety by allowing detailed inspections of difficult to reach places without the need for rappelling down the sides of the structures. Instead, personnel were able to stand firmly on the ground while the drone facilitated a thorough visual inspection of bolts and cables more than 200 feet above for corrosion. Combined with the conventional inspection method for inspecting the more accessible parts of the structure, the hybrid approach saved the client time and resources, but most importantly, achieved substantial risk reduction.

Our drone team understands that integrating drones into a project team’s workflow requires careful analysis of existing methods and the development of a practical and effective drone implementation strategy.

We work with teams to ensure that all users of drone acquired data can derive meaningful insights from it. On roadway projects, our engineers are utilizing drone technology augmented by an innovative in-house data entry application to quantify production and track progress. The availability of drone acquired data has greatly reduced the number of hours engineers traditionally spent in the field with measuring wheels and notebooks. Instead, a weekly flight is conducted, and the associated data is uploaded to the cloud, allowing engineers to remotely complete week-to-week material takeoffs with updated productivity and cost data at their fingertips.

Recent technological advances have made a variety of sensors and payloads, once only practical on large manned aircraft, available on sUAS platforms. We have invested in a variety of these sensors including thermal imaging cameras. As an alternative to employing costly manned aircraft services, we have been using drone technology to provide competitive and often superior quality data products to our clients while achieving a net positive return on our sUAS investments in the process. We leverage the diverse talent within our workforce to conduct specialized drone work as well as research and development to meet client needs and to stay ahead of the curve in this competitive yet collaborative space.

drone

We realized early on that building a drone program isn’t just about buying the latest technology; it’s about building a compliant, innovative, and sustainable aviation program. Our sUAS team maintains such a program. The team supports sUAS crewmembers and operations throughout North America by ensuring regulatory compliance and adherence to industry best practices, and by conducting trainings, contributing to proposals, and providing a help desk to address in-house and client questions.

To learn more about our drone program, check out our recent technical webinar, “Flying Solutions: Adding Value with Drone Surveying and Sensing.”  

About The Author

Jeffrey H. is a construction engineer with more than four years of experience working on federal, state, and local projects. He is knowledgeable about unmanned aircraft technology and applications and has a bachelor’s degree in Construction Management. He is a member of Parsons’ sUAS Governance Board, which determines the strategic direction of Parsons sUAS capabilities and investments.

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