Because engineering and construction are risk aware industries, safety is monitored through judicious regulation, inspection, and upkeep of equipment.
Regulations such as Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) and Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) ensure that periodic and thorough examinations must take place. Though the regulations exist to manage and control risk and avoid damage, they can require lengthy and expensive procedures which involve Mobile Elevating Work Platforms MEWP) and scaffolding for each item of lifting equipment.
Prior to drone technology, the only way to get an aerial view of a building site required the use of an aircraft – a prohibitively expensive process making it at best irregular and at worst unachievable for many firms. A drone, however, is a relatively simple and affordable solution, providing aerial views at a far more reasonable expense when compared with a piloted aircraft.
Drones can be used to survey a large site, obtaining a topography in a relatively shorter space of time than previous methods with men on the ground, and to a higher degree of accuracy. Automation is a factor coming forward, of setting the drone a path and waiting to run its course, as it scans a site.
Images are current, they track construction progress and highlight any problems immediately, enabling plans to be amended before it’s too late, thus avoiding costly potential rebuilding.
When it comes to mapping a site, drones can access all areas more easily than a plane, capturing the footage and relaying the information in real-time to computer mapping software.
Obviously, in terms of health and safety, construction sites need inspecting frequently and by their nature they have areas of high risk. Using drones minimises the risk to workers who no longer have to carry out a physical inspection, and information can be fed straight back to health and safety officers.
Building surveys could potentially be made faster, safer, and cheaper by use of a drone. There is no need for the expense and time cost of scaffolding to inspect a roof for example, when a drone enables a contractor to analyse live video of the roof in real time.
Key factors are whether using drones can reduce the time taken and costs incurred for examinations, and also reduce human risk by removing the necessity for working at height.
However, as drones are only able to mimic vision, there are limitations to what they can do. Nevertheless, using them to digitise that one area can be significantly beneficial. For areas where a cherry picker or even scaffolding would traditionally be required to assess equipment, drones could do so precisely, quickly and without the relevant costs.
Obviously, extra expense and downtime are unlikely to be ideal at any stage of a project which is why drone technology has the potential to play a significant part in the future of engineering examinations. As drone tech develops, so will their use.