Construction Intelligence – Drones as Coworkers?

From intelligent infrastructures to the use of drones for bridge inspections, technology is finally carving its way into the construction industry.

Photo Courtesy MnDOT - Snooper vehicles hoist bridge inspectors over the side of a bridge. One department of transportation is testing the use of drones to do the inspections, replacing the traditional method.
Photo Courtesy MnDOT – Snooper vehicles hoist bridge inspectors over the side of a bridge. One department of transportation is testing the use of drones to do the inspections, replacing the traditional method.

With the exponentially increasing ability to capture and analyze vast quantities of data from objects—bridge piers and pavements, for example—the dream of an intelligent infrastructure is now within reach. Over time, the valuable feedback that this construction technology will give us will lead to the building of ever-better and safer infrastructures.

What kind of technology exactly?

Technologies such as sensors that gather data and drones that fly around infrastructures are being sent on construction sites. Years of research into technology that can monitor the structural health of piles, girders and decks – such as sensors, mainly – has led to the development of systems that deliver valuable design insight into the impact of construction, operations and the environment on the life of transportation structures.

After the 2007 fatal collapse of Minneapolis’ I-35W bridge that shook the nation faith in its bridges and other infrastructures, public demand is rising for intelligent traffic systems (ITS).


Not to worry, this technology won’t replace construction workers.

FAA-Evalutation-contruction-droneCurrently, drones can accurately inspect construction structures but cannot fully take over the job under current laws. The Federal Highway Administration’s National Bridge Inspection Standards state that a drone can be used to inspect a fracture-critical bridge span but cannot replace a crew of on-site inspectors. Furthermore, the Federal Aviation Agency prohibits the use of all unmanned aircraft for commercial use without the agency’s express approval.

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