These days it’s not a bird, a plane, or even Superman soaring the skies above construction sites. No, builders and contractors have their eyes on much more creative (and cost-effective) sights: high-tech, automated drones.

These unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, with high-resolution cameras, retractable landing gear, data collection capabilities, and all sorts of other dreamy technological advances are undeniably changing the construction industry.

As most reports show, while 2015 was a provisional year of edits, additions, and accessibility adjustments, 2016 has been dubbed the breakout year for drone usage. And as FAA regulations continue to settle, making rules-of-the-sky become more concrete and feasible, construction projects will keep experiencing drone benefits throughout the coming year.

However, before you start expanding the horizon with your new set of drones, surveying sites, tracking job progress, measuring inventories, improving safety measures, and collecting marketing material, it’s vital to be aware of the actual guidelines in place and the operational rationality at hand.

Here are just a few FAA limitations to keep on your radar before your first flight:

  • Basic FAA restrictions include a weight limit for drones of less than 55 pounds. It also must fly no more than 400 feet above ground level, or if flying higher, stay within 400 feet of the structure being surveyed.
  • UAVs can only be flown during daylight hours with appropriate anti-collision lighting, no faster than 100 mph, and may not be flown over non-participating people and must yield to manned aircraft.
  • Drowns must be kept within sight without aid of any device other than corrective lenses.

View a complete list of FAA regulations on the Federal Aviation Administration website.

UAVs are obviously an investment, both financially and operationally, making it important for C-level construction IT leaders to make decisions from both a financial and operational standpoint. That said, discuss these questions and note the key aspects for operating drone technology as you and your team move toward UAV implementation:

  • What are the pitfalls and risks associated with using drones?
  • How are other construction firms implementing UAV technology?
  • Finding the right remote pilot for the job, and following the legal framework (as mentioned above).
  • Guaranteeing liability with coverage and insurance
  • Identifying best practices for the most useful ways to interpret, store, and distribute the information collected

Discuss this topic, and more IT-related construction issues and trends, at the Construction, Building, and Design Strategy Meeting on March 28-29, 2017 in San Francisco, CA.

From Cloud Systems and Security to Public-Private Partnerships, this platform allows construction leaders from a variety of sectors to come together and share experiences, discuss IT initiatives and challenges, and engage in relevant industry topics.

Brian Konie, CIO of O’Neil Industries, will be facilitating the discussion group on “Drone Use in Construction.” Be sure to head over to the CBD event page to view the rest of the 2017 facilitators, discussion group topics, and vendor line-up.