The site - and even what exists on it - is often one of the great mysteries when it comes to design because getting accurate records is time consuming and expensive.

Consequently, the site is a risk and contracts place that risk on a “competent contractor.”

For construction estimators working on feasibilities or bids and administrators dealing with progressive claims, getting accurate site measurements means working with a land surveyor. As an alternative to this traditional workflow, estimators will make assumptions and administrators will rely upon day sheets, weigh bridge data or truck counts to prepare and assess claims.

The result is that heavy losses can be incurred or bids lost because of mistakes, poor assumptions, and incorrect or incomplete records.

This is where drones and data analytics come in handy, because technology is reshaping the world we live in and overturning traditional workflows with cheaper, faster and more accurate methods.

Drones are particularly interesting because it’s an example of how tech can cut through licensing barriers and red tape; currently the barriers to using drones are the purchase cost and getting a UAV operator’s or controller’s certificate.

Amendments to Part 101 (the legislation for Remotely Piloted Aircraft) came in to effect just recently, and it removed much of the licensing barriers to entry. Also, drones aren’t new technology anymore, so the entry price of four or five years ago has dropped from around $80,000 about $3,000 nowadays.

Drones are incredibly powerful for collecting site data or understanding earthworks movements and creating trusted quantities during the progress of the work.

Drones can take hundreds of pictures that can then be stitched together to create a 3D model of the land. What was once a difficult task has now been reduced to a fast and more accurate workflow with a reliable record of the site terrain.

constructionWe can then use these 3D models to complete measurements that are far more accurate than the traditional method.

digital construction

We can also compare models from two flyovers, a flyover and a baseline or the final design to calculate monthly progress, the costs to date and the cost to complete. In the one recent case, there was a stockpile of about 7,000 cubic metres of earth that was later used as fill and those movements were recorded as separate 3D models.

In the traditional workflow, there is no way to attribute quantities universally on site without engaging a surveyor. Some may try to estimate volume by truck or tonnage, but this method is not trusted and can create a lengthy process to unravel the assumptions and reach agreements.

The modern workflow for estimators and administrators is that they operate their own drones and collect the actual information they need. That information is then uploaded to modeling platforms where they calculate the quantities they require. The reliability and speed of these calculations removes mistrust around quantity and allows us to focus on what the dollar rate will be.

And this is where the opportunity is created; it’s not so much about the technology itself, as it alone will do nothing. It’s through a mixture of tech’s ability to cut through barriers of entry and applying a team who are inquisitive enough to try new things in a different way and apply know-how to get better and more accurate results.

Technology is the tool creating change and bringing about new opportunities. What it comes down to is embracing change and making the most from it.

To prepare ourselves for a more connected, intelligent and demanding customer, we can identify the technology trends that have the biggest potential for our businesses.

What this means however is shifting from a notion of complacency in our workflows to creating a culture of ideation, speed and agility within our businesses and project teams.

The end gain is that we become fearless digital leaders whose work is more accurate whilst creating an industry that is more transparent in the way it works.