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  • Elisabeth Keyes

Big Data, Drones and Construction

Updated: Jun 24

A solution to addressing the high cost to construction as a result of poor data and miscommunication


Full transparency, the first thing I am going to tell you as an interested party or potential client, don’t focus on the drones. That might seem counterintuitive since my company is primarily focused on drones. HOWEVER, that’s not entirely accurate. We are focused on the data output, the result, on our client’s needs. And that my friends is Data - Big Data. The drones themselves are a tool, a single component within a larger complex system that drives how we obtain our data. The drones are important because when managed properly they are synonymous with technology, data, speed, accuracy, and for that matter the 5 V’s of Big Data. I’ll get into that later. For now, bear with me while I explain why the drones are not the star of this show!

 

Drones have been around for a long time particularly in military and government verticals. Fun Fact, the first US drone program started in 1936. The technology, hardware, and software, and output continue to excel exponentially. However, in commercial markets, it is still considered an emerging technology, and it doesn’t matter how quickly the technology grows and changes, if it isn’t the right actionable data and format for a client, it is useless. The drone is a vehicle for acquisition. The big deal is the Big Data output. The construction industry faces a complex set of issues that burden them with lost time, money, and efficiencies. It is a globally consistent trend, and the statistics are astonishing. For purposes of this discussion, I focus on some of the areas where remote sensing, using drones, can have the biggest impact on providing data to help construction company’s chip away at those loses and make valuable improvements.


Construction Statistics

The statistics are astonishing. From the 2018 FMI and PlanGrid Report we know the following:

In the US

• 96% of C&E data went unused

• $65 Billion total construction spending went towards rework

• 48% of all rework was caused by poor data and miscommunication

• $31.3 Billion in rework was caused by poor data and miscommunication

• 97 hours a week are wasted on non-optimal activities by C-Level, Directors/VPs, PMs,

Pre-Construction Managers, Field Supervisors, Estimators, and VDC Managers

• Annual cost impact of that wasted time is $377,000


This is where drone driven Big Data comes in. It is clear that data acquired through drone and GPS technology can have direct impact on the major issues made so clear by FMI/PlanGrid C&E research.



Big Data - Remote Sensing and how it can impact construction projects now

Let’s look at what constitutes Big Data and how drone driven data impacts the construction industry.

THE 5 V'S OF BIG DATA

WHAT THAT MEANS

WHAT THAT MEANS FOR CONSTRUCTION

VOLUME

The basis for what makes Big Data – the amount of and size of data acquired by drones is astonishing. Aside from basic photographs and movie files, the data is too large for processing by average systems.

​Integrating a remote sensing program requires equipment, hardware, and software capable of acquiring, processing, analyzing, interfacing, and storing the volume of immense data acquired from a single construction project site. We manage all that and deliver only the usable, actionable data to our clients.

VELOCITY

The speed at which data is generated and how quickly it moves is important to clients; so they receive the data quickly and at the right time, to make the best business decisions. Data from remote sensing is acquired and processed exponentially faster and integrates faster than traditional means.

In our experience, drone driven remote sensing means our clients receive the data they need to make critical site decisions, dependent on the data output required, within 12- 48 hours of our mission completion.

VARIETY

Referring to the diversity of data types; drone driven data uses a variety of data types to acquire the information and delivers a range of data types from basic still photography files to advanced sensing LiDAR technology.

From simple photos and videos to 3D models, elevation models, orthorectified maps, to point clouds, the variety of systems and data points within each process provides a multitude of options for our clients to use across functional areas within their organization. Usable data for the right user.

VERACITY

Quality and accuracy are the mainstays of drone driven data. Utilizing the right sensors in conjunction with other systems provides trustworthy data.

​Remote sensing processes using drones, and other industry standard systems, provides repeatable, reliable, and accurate data. We know this from accuracy reports as well as comparisons to known data models. This reduces errors in estimating and rework, as well as improving communications between project parties. Provides indisputable reference to settle conflict resolution.

VALUE

What organizations can do with and what insights they gain from the data, defines the value.

​Remote sensing provides rapid, efficient, accurate data that can be used to achieve goals across functional areas from marketing and sales to estimators, project management, BIM, virtual construction teams, site supervisors, engineers, architects, owners, C-level, and all stakeholders.

You may ask…Given this information, where is the disconnect and why is construction suffering the consequences?


Great question! Understandably, construction has been slow to adopt technology. The reasons are varied and not surprising. First, as I stated earlier, it is an emerging technology and not standard practice, yet. Second, the drone industry has done itself a disservice by how it is positioned in the market (teaser…next week’s blog!). Lastly, also from the from reports, we hear directly from the organizations themselves, explaining why technology adoption fails.

Why technology adoption fails

Flying Fox UAV solution

​36% say - It’s a poor fit with current processes and procedures

Therefore, we are focused on the deliverable. What our clients need and how they will use it.

22% say - it’s difficult to use

Therefore, we are fastidious in understanding what our client’s goal is and the systems, process, and communication methods they will use to integrate the provided data.

​22% say - Inadequate training

Therefore, we provide the tangible, actionable, usable data that integrates with your systems keeping the learning curve extremely low.

22% say - Doesn’t integrate well with existing software and technology

Therefore, - see all of the above, it’s the same logic – we leverage our expertise and knowledge and take all the hassle out of the process and provide you with data that you and your teams can implement and use immediately! No new software, hardware, staffing, or intensive training is required to use the data we provide.


It’s time to look at drone driven data through a different lens (or sensor). In our organization it is a single component within a larger system of data focused tools. We sit at the intersection of these elements prepared to deliver accurate, reliable, usable data to our clients. It is a much larger, more complex system that requires experience and expertise in the use of drones for remote sensing. Combining that with our focus set on understanding our client’s exact data needs, how they will use it, analyze it, share it, and make decisions from it are why the drone itself is not the cornerstone for providing valuable solutions. It is still the combined human expertise, experience, interpretation, comprehension, and implementation of these complex systems that delivers value.


 

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