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FUN FACT - Using drones to help architects in the field

07/03/2017 -

Using Drones: A Practical Guide for Construction Observation

See the bottom of this article for the video

From an architect’s perspective, flying quadracopters is an affordable and extremely effective way to quickly assess construction progress while on site.  There is no longer a need to ride a basket hanging off a building, climb ladders or mount stairs ad naseum in order to fulfill your exterior overview obligations of a construction’s progress.


Contractors have an amusing reaction to the use of drones on site.  While they are entranced at this new (and fun) technology, they are often very aggravated at the results.  Culturally speaking, the use of drones is expanding globally due to the affordable costs but its practicality has yet to be embraced by the construction industry.

Benefits to using a drone on site:

1.    Site survey

2.  Client progress report

3.  Field reports and site inspection

4.  Tracking construction progress

When considering a drone for on-site observation there are some key elements it must possess:

1.    Obtain permission from the project Owner, it is in their best interest.  And, make sure you comply with any licensing requirements for flying a drone (in the US it is an easy FAA Certificate Registration).

2.    The radio controller must be linked to the drone through a smart phone. This allows the phone to act like a streaming camera so you see what the drone sees instantly.

3.    The drone must use a multipoint GPS system to understand where it is relative to you.  This technology comes built into the drone and radio controller.  It does not require your smart phone to have a connection to a network in order to function.

4.    It must hover.  There are many times you’ll need to compose an image or fly the drone carefully up to a building.  This requires looking at the phone screen and the actual drone, so finesse and fine motor control is a must.

5.   The camera mounted to the drone must be high resolution and capture both video and still images.  The camera must also have a removable memory card so you can pluck your day’s shots without connecting the drone or controller to your computer.  Just slip the memory card into your computer’s reader, transfer images and you’re done.

I use a DJI Phantom 4.  It is very sturdy, the image resolution is fantastic and it takes a beating.  I have travelled with it all over the world and it has never failed me.  If you are considering obtaining a drone, I would highly recommend obtaining the latest DJI Phantom available on the market near you.  It comes out of the box with minimal setup required.

There are many videos available on YouTube which highlight the finer points of flying, fine tuning the various features and what happens when things go wrong.  The benefits of using this technology far outweighs the learning curve of flying.  Get one, it will pay for itself in a week.

Article written by Richard Turlington AIA RIBA NCARB of Richard Turlington Architects Inc