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Drone use in the AEC Industry

Updated: May 23, 2023

Drone use in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry has revolutionized the way projects are planned, designed, and executed.

Drones have become increasingly popular for pilots who enjoy flying recreationally as well as for commercial pilots, due to their versatility, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of using drones in the AEC industry and how they have changed the industry for the better.

Surveying and Mapping:

One of the primary benefits of using drones in the AEC industry is their ability to survey and map project sites quickly, accurately, and, in most cases, autonomously. Drones that are equipped with high resolution cameras and GPS can provide detailed aerial images and topographic maps of construction sites, allowing engineers and construction managers to plan and design projects more efficiently.

Key Benefits:
  • Larger areas can be covered in a shorter amount of time

  • Reducing cost

  • High resolution photos, videos, and 3D models of the project site.

Inspections and Maintenance:

Drones can be used to inspect buildings and structures for damage, wear and tear, or maintenance needs in areas that would normally be very difficult to access. This can help identify potential issues early on and reduce the need for costly repairs or replacements further down the road.

Drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras can also detect heat signatures that may indicate problems. For example, thermal imaging could detect heat loss from the building envelope, or even detect electrical or mechanical equipment that may be overheating, allowing for prompt repairs and maintenance.

Key Benefits:
  • Reduce risk and improves safety

  • Reduce costs by reducing the need for specialized equipment, such as scaffolding

  • Identify problem areas that would normally be undetectable to the eyes (such as heat loss)

  • Reduce risk of catastrophic failure of equipment.

Project Monitoring and Management:

Drones can be used to monitor construction progress and provide real-time updates to project managers and property owners. This can help ensure that projects are completed on time and within budget. Drones can also be used to monitor worker safety, which can help reduce the risk of accidents and injuries on job sites.

The men in the iconic “Lunch atop a Skyscraper” photograph took significant risk while on a job site, without any safety equipment. While this resulted in an amazing photograph, it can also serve as an example of what a drone can accomplish, while the pilot operates it safely (and within FAA regulations), from the ground.

Lunch atop a Skyscraper, 1932 - Charles Clyde Ebbets

Drone use in the AEC Industry

Key Benefits:
  • Ensure workers follow safety protocols.

  • Provide detailed real time documentation for owners, project managers, contractors, and engineers throughout the project

  • High resolution photos, videos and hyperlapse video, all of which can be valuable marketing tools.

In conclusion, the use of drones in the AEC industry has numerous benefits that can help improve efficiency, reduce costs, and improve safety. As technology continues to improve, we can expect to see even more innovative uses for drones. Whether it's surveying and mapping, project monitoring and management, inspection and maintenance, or improving safety, drones have proven to be a valuable resource and another tool in the proverbial toolbox.

One final, and perhaps one of the most important, benefit is that drones are FUN, which is something we all need in our lives! Why not have some fun while doing the work that you love?

If you are interested in becoming a commercial or recreational UAS Pilot, it is strongly recommended to become familiar with the FAA regulations for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) prior to launching your first flight.


Written by:

Chad Beliveau

Chad Beliveau

Senior Plumbing Project Engineer


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