MasterBuild Africa

Using aerial drones in construction

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Drone, also known as unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), unmanned aircraft system (UAS) or several other names, is an aircraft without a human pilot aboard. It is usually operated with various degrees of autonomy such as remote control by a human operator, or fully or intermittently autonomously by on-board computers in conjunction with GPS. Although, drone’s technology initially found application in military operation for missions that are too “dull, dirty or dangerous” but their use is expanding in commercial, scientific, recreational and other applications such as policing and surveillance, aerial photography, agriculture and drone racing. Based on 2015 sales reports, it was estimated that over a million drones was sold for non-military application.


A typical drone

[Image: 3DR]

 With the recent shift of construction industry towards the application of various available technologies to ease the way various activities are carried out, the use of aerial drones has become more commonplace in the construction industry. It has become obvious that aerial drones can play crucial roles in various construction activities such surveying, showing clients progress of work and monitoring jobsites to ensure safe practices, inspect structures and job progress against project schedule without impacting project cost. However, with the recent advancement recorded in drone technology, drones are now equipped with high-speed HD cameras capable of taking stills and video to provide aerial imaging which can then be used to create maps and 3D models of construction sites. LiDAR laser scanning, and other sensors can equally be use with drone for map making and sites 3D modelling.


3D modelling generated by Autodesk ReCap using images captured by drone

[Image: 3ders]

Meanwhile, several researchers and innovative experts in the area of drone technology have argued that drones can contribute more to the construction industry than just gathering data. A team of roboticists from ETH Zürich’s Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control in 2011 offered a glimpse of what might be possible through the presentation of a 6-meter (20 ft.) tall tower constructed from 1,500 polystyrene bricks which are neatly assembled without any assistance from a human hand. This was achieved by drone guided by mathematical algorithms that took digital design data and translated it into flight paths.


Drone in Construction

[Image: gizmag]


In a similar vein, Norman Foster proposed the construction of the droneport (tagged as the “world smallest airport”) which was demonstrated with the assembling of a full-scale prototype at the 15th international architecture exhibition in Venice, Italy (Venice Biennale of Architecture). The droneport it is imagined as a ‘kit-of-parts’ where only the basic formwork and brick-press machinery is delivered to site using drones. While raw materials, such as clay for bricks and boulders for the foundation, are sourced locally. The vaulted brick structure can be put together by community members, thus, enhancing the construction know-how of local workers.


The Norman foster foundation Droneport Project in Rwanda

[Image: DesignBoom]

 Norman Foster, founder of Norman foster foundation, in his statement said that the proposal is an inauguration of Norman foster foundation project which seek to create a network of similar facilities capable of delivering medical supplies and other necessities to inaccessible regions. He further explained that the aim of the project is to ensure that every small town in Africa and other emerging economies have a drone port by 2030. However, the pilot project will be launched in Rwanda later this year.


Written by Fisayo Animashaun


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