Drones may soon be used to monitor the progress of work at construction sites, helping make the process more efficient, especially when it comes to making sure there are enough materials to continue work.
The drones are being implemented for workers at the in-progress Sacramento Kings stadium in California, and are able to automatically flag slow progress on the stadium.
Drones fly around the construction site once per day, collecting video footage on the progress of the stadium's construction. The video is then converted into 3D images of the construction site. These images are then fed into software designed to compare the actual progress with the architectural plans and the construction work plan, which shows when each part of the stadium should be finished.
"We highlight at-risk locations on a site, where the probability of having an issue is really high," said Mani Golparvar-Fard, assistant professor of civil engineering at the University of Illinois, in an interview with the MIT Technology Review. "We can understand why deviations are happening, and we can see where efficiency improvements are made."
Of course, the new system does raise a number of concerns, especially when it comes to worker privacy. It also raises fears that it may encourage workers to work longer hours.
Despite this, the creators of the new system defend the idea by saying that the drone is really just replacing other ways of monitoring workers. Previously there would either be people standing and observing the work being done, or there would be video cameras filming progress. While the feeling of it all being autonomous is a little different, it's important to remember that drones aren't there to monitor workers themselves, rather they are there to monitor the progress and materials being used.
Monitoring a large construction site is difficult because of how many moving parts there are in the process, and because of the fact that the jobs being performed frequently change. The team is also experimenting with a system that would enable drones to attach cameras to different locations around a construction site. A video analysis system is then able to categorize different tasks being performed and tally how much time different individuals are spending on the job.