The construction industry is no stranger to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly referred to as drones. Although drones don’t require a physical pilot, they do require a human controller. In other words, increasing productivity with drones requires you to hire or train an employee to utilize the drone. This means one less pair of hands assisting with construction or more money being siphoned from your pocket as you hire a new employee. There’s only one solution to this problem: eliminating the need for a human controller.
Fortunately, recent developments at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) Langley Research Center aim to address this issue by utilizing a fleet of autonomous drones. In this short article, our Denver contractor lawyers will explore this innovative technology and discuss its effect on contractors.
Unmanned “Autonomous” Vehicles
The goal of NASA’s study was to find a solution for difficult tasks in areas that are deprived of GPS. They enlisted the help of a group of MIT students who shortly thereafter drafted a plan that utilized a fleet of autonomous drones to navigate a forest using various forms of communication to create a 3D map of the environment. This ambitious plan claimed that this goal could be achieved without the use of GPS and without drones crashing into trees.
In order to accomplish this lofty goal, the students utilized quadcopters outfitted with onboard laser-range finders for positioning and route planning. By using a technique called “simultaneous localization and mapping” (SLAM), the drones can scan their environment and create maps to follow. Various algorithms help guide the drone around the map as it is materializes using the data produced from the drone fleet. According to the study, the drones can efficiently map areas while avoiding re-mapping or mapping over another drone’s topographical data. Once this data has been captured, it is transferred to a researchers’ base station using a WiFi network. Here, the maps are stitched together into a single cohesive visualization.
The Impact of Autonomous Drones
How can autonomous drones be used to benefit contractors and the construction industry? John M. Russo, a surveyor and president of the U.S. Institute of Building Documentation believes that autonomous drones can help automate messy plenum space surveys or provide 3D laser scans to back up development with hard data. It can also help with mapping buildings, which don’t typically allow for GPS. Plus, they could take photographs to display during pre-bid walks. Eventually, this technology could even be used to monitor subcontractors’ work progress by percentage to eliminate the possibility of overpayment.
Although these developments are still a ways off, they will have significant ramifications on day-to-day processes in the construction industry. Remember, partnering with Denver contractor attorneys can help you stay ahead of the curve.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.