Global engineering and construction company Bechtel has received permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly unmanned drones over its enormous U.S. construction sites.
Construction Manager Mike Lewis said the technology will improve jobsite safety and product quality by allowing project teams to see—in real time—problems that arise. And the company’s analysts can translate the data the drones collect into more efficient construction practices, he said.
The company’s drones use a technology called Skycatch, which includes a patented, automated power system that automatically recharges the drones while they are operating. The system also includes high-definition cameras, infrared scanners, thermal sensors, and radiation monitors.
For complex, large-scale construction jobs like the ones Bechtel oversees, drones will be programmed to collect and even analyze data on everything from air quality to weather conditions. Site managers, in turn, can determine in advance how the job will advance and can use the information to staff jobs with just the right number of workers and to bring in materials at just the right time for each phase of a job.
On a wider scale, smaller builders and real estate agents hope to eventually use simpler drone models to photograph construction in progress and monitor job sites overnight.
The FAA has said it will issue its guidelines for widespread use of drones within two years.