Drones are small, remote-controlled, unmanned aerial vehicles (also referred to as UAVs). Many new and exciting uses are being employed for drones, but one that is particularly intriguing is in the field of architecture and construction.
According to an interview in Dezeen.com with Mark Dytham, architect and co-founder of Tokyo-based Klein Dytham Architecture, “Drones will transform the way buildings are designed, the way they look and the way they are used.
One way in which drones are proving to be a useful tool in architecture is through surveying. Due to their small size and relative ease of maneuverability, drones make an easy task of accessing difficult to reach places. Instead of relying on manpower to try to reach potentially unsafe or challenging terrain, you can just send a drone in. For example, rather than sending a worker up a tenuous structure, such as a bridge, to have them photograph and record information, you can simply fly a drone up there to provide close-up footage which can be sent in real-time to the architect on the project.
The aerial photography provided by drones is extremely useful in allowing both the architect and the client to not only visualize how the finished product will look in the landscape but also to later showcase it when it has come to fruition. Utilizing a drone for aerial footage aids the architect in drawing up very accurate plans, as well as subsequent footage displaying the completion of those plans in the finished structure.
Drones may also be used to add efficiency to mapping projects. A project which would generally take a month or longer may now be accomplished in a matter of minutes through the use of drone technology. Drones also contribute a much higher level of accuracy to the mapping process, thus eliminating costly mistakes and revisions.
According to ArchDaily.com, “While using satellite imagery for site planning is common among architects, these visuals are often available in low resolution and produce less accurate data. Data collected by drones can completely eliminate the need for hiring land surveyors for creating topographic surveys. Instead, architects can use this information to build accurate 3D models of the terrain and site and import them directly into drafting and modeling software like Rhino.” In the past, architects would have relied on planes, helicopters, or satellite imaging for aerial footage.
Now, because of their relative ease-of-use and ability to hover in the air for long periods of time, drones are able to produce extremely high-quality aerial images.
While the use of drones in architecture seems to be almost necessary for a successful firm, there are some obstacles to consider. One obstacle to full implementation of drone (UAV) usage in architecture and construction is government intervention and regulation of these aircraft. There are some current general regulations in place in several countries, with more specificity sure to be added in the near future. Remember, drones are considered to be aircraft and it’s very important to educate yourself on what rules exist in your area so that your drone use is compliant with them.
In the Uk, there is currently legislation being proposed which would require all drone owners to complete a safety and awareness training course proving that they are knowledgeable in all areas of drone safety. Perhaps the savvy firm would be wise to hire an experienced, professional drone operator. Several companies have emerged offering certified UAV operators, including some skilled in assisting on architectural projects. There are also companies that specialize in training folks who desire to operate their own UAV.
Additional obstacles to tackle are the restrictions placed on drone usage near airports or stadiums. Of course regulations will vary according to location, but in general, drone usage is forbidden within 5 miles (roughly 8 kilometers) of an airport. This could prove to be an issue if your project is close to an airport and you’ve come to rely on drone technology. Drones are also forbidden from flying near crowds and public areas. Again, this could prove to be challenging for commercial architects desiring to utilize a UAV in their work.
Looking to the future
According to Archinect.com, a 2016 report by Goldman Sachs lists the construction industry as the largest consumer of UAVs for the next 5 years.
Some future-minded architects even foresee being able to utilize drones to carry and place materials at job sites. In fact, a collaborative project used drones to carry foam blocks and construct a 20 foot (6 meters) tall structure completely autonomously!
We could also see the use of drones to provide real-time feedback on a job site and the effect the construction is having on the environment around it. This type of up-to-date feedback would be especially useful in seeking to preserve and protect the ecosystem around a project. Drones could even be utilized to carry infrared sensors to aid in determining the effect the project is having on the environment below the surface.
Dytham is a particularly forward-thinking visionary who pictures a near-future where people will access buildings from the air via drones. He states that the future of architecture will need to evolve to accommodate a new change in people’s spatial perceptions. According to the article in Dezene.com, he says, “In the future you’ll experience architecture from drones, they will change the way architecture is perceived. We’ll all see buildings from above. We’ll cease to be ground-dwelling creatures; we’ll see things in a vertical dimension.” Can you imagine entering your apartment by drone, via the balcony?
I believe we’ll see drone usage morph and develop into ever more useful features. The architect of tomorrow will need to adapt to technology in order to learn how to best utilize this promising new tool. The potential for UAV usage in architecture and the construction field is truly exciting as we literally soar to new heights.