Drones In Construction: Benefits Of Surveying Software

The construction industry plays a huge part in the global economy. However, this sector faces multiple challenges. If you are a business leader in this industry, you are likely exploring technology solutions to streamline and improve the performance of your organization.

Drones in construction are emerging as key catalysts for increased operational efficiency. For this reason you should considering integrating them into your business practices.

In this guide, we will explain the benefits of surveying software managed by drone control apps. We will then go onto outline how you can build a drone app for your construction business.

Contents

The global construction market
The challenges facing the construction industry
Why do drones matter?
The global market for drones
How drones can help in the construction industry
How popular are drones in the construction business?
Regulations concerning drones
Which technical features should you offer in the construction drone app?
Building a drone app for your construction business
Planning to launch a drone app for your construction business?

The global construction market

All over the world, the construction industry plays a crucial role in driving economic growth. The following pieces of statistics indicate its importance:

    • This industry accounted for 12.4% of the global GDP in 2014, and its share increased to 14.7% in 2017. Read more about this in “21 insightful construction & construction industry statistics”.
    • Construction spending in the US was $1.23 trillion in 2017, and it reached $1.293 trillion in 2018, according to this Statista report.
    • In New York City alone, the construction spending was $45 billion in 2018, and it‘s likely to reach $70 billion in 2019.
    • The global construction market was $17.140 trillion in 2017, and it will likely reach $24.334 trillion in 2021, according to this PR Newswire report.

 

The challenges facing the construction industry

The construction industry faces several challenges, e.g.:

      • Labor shortage impacts this industry since there aren‘t sufficiently skilled personnel.
      • The productivity in this sector has remained stagnant for a while, and you can read more about this in “4 major challenges facing the construction industry”.
      • Safety issues plague this industry as the number of workplace injuries and deaths remain high.
      • This sector has been slow in adopting technology, and the adoption has been sub-optimal.
      • The cost of materials has increased, and coupled with stagnant productivity, it adversely impacts the profitability in this industry.
      • Environmental and sustainability challenges plague this sector, and you can read more about them in “Issues facing the construction industry in 2019”.

 

Why do drones matter?

The construction industry is trying to catch up with technology adoption, and drones figure prominently in their scheme of things. Let‘s first understand a few commercial use cases of drones, e.g.:

        • Drones can help farmers to get information in real-time about a large tract of land, therefore, agricultural use of drones is increasing.
        • Inspection of infrastructure is safer with drones, moreover, it‘s faster and cheaper.
        • At the time of a disaster, drones can reduce the load on the existing infrastructure. An example is Flying COW (Cell on Wings) developed by AT&T, which can act as a small replacement of cellular towers. Deploying them in disaster zones can reduce the load on existing cellular towers.
        • Surveying construction sites with drones and identifying errors have emerged as important use cases of drones.
        • There is increasing use of drones in warehousing and inventory management.

You can read more about these use cases in “Industrial uses of drones – 5 current business applications”.

The global market for drones

The global market for drones is growing, and the following pieces of statistics illustrate this:

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        • In 2017, the market for drones was worth $69 billion. However, a TechSciResearch report estimates that this market will reach $141 billion in 2023, with a healthy CAGR of 11%.
        • The commercial drone market is growing even faster! A PR Newswire report projects that this market will reach $43 billion in 2024 from $14 billion in 2018, which translates to a CAGR of 20.5%.

There are several popular drone products and platforms, e.g., DJI offers its Spark, Mavic, Inspire, and Matrice. Matrice is especially powerful for industrial use cases. If you want to explore more drone products and platforms then you can read “The best drone 2019: DJI, Parrot and more for beginners and pros”.

How drones can help in the construction industry

There are various ways in which drones can help in the construction industry, e.g.:

        • Land surveys are easier with drones.
        • Drones can help with mapping a site.
        • Construction project teams can use drones to inspect construction sites.
        • Building surveys are easier with drones.
        • Construction project managers can monitor on-site activities using drones.
        • Security surveillance of construction sites is easier with drones.
        • Construction businesses can provide visual materials for communicating with their clients and employees with the help of drones.

You can read more about these use cases in “An aerial view of the future – drones in construction”.

How popular are drones in the construction business?

Several market observers have pointed out the demand for drones in the construction industry, e.g.:

        • An Adroit Market Research report identifies the construction industry as a key driver for the growth in the market of drones.
        • ResearchAndMarket, a market research organization has stated that construction and agriculture are two key sectors behind the growing demand for drones.
        • A Grand View Research report has highlighted the improved accuracy of surveys that the construction industry has noticed after using drones.

 

Regulations concerning drones

While drones can add a lot of value to your construction business, you need to keep in mind that drone-related accidents are common. You can read about such high-profile accidents in “17 drone disasters that show why the FAA hates drones”.

Given this risk of accidents, and the risk that drones might capture images in an unauthorized manner, regulators have swung into action! When you use drones for your construction business, you need to study the relevant regulations carefully.

You need to understand several regulatory aspects, e.g.:

          • Registering your drone with the appropriate authorities;
          • How high can you fly your drone;
          • Avoiding sensitive installations;
          • Steering clear of emergency response efforts.

You can read more about these aspects in “Drone regulations: what you need to know”.

Drone-related regulations vary from country to country, therefore, I recommend that you consult the Global Drone Regulations Database. The commercial use of drones is relatively new, therefore, regulations are evolving, e.g., the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the US has recently changed the regulations related to drones. Keep yourself up-to-date about these changes.

Which technical features should you offer in the construction drone app?

You have likely thought of a few functional features when you plan to incorporate drones in your construction business, e.g., you might use it for surveying the site. Keep in mind that you need the required technical features too, e.g.:

          • The drone platform should allow high and low-level flight control.
          • You will need telemetry and sensor data, moreover, the drone should ideally avoid obstacles.
          • The drone platform should allow you to control the camera, moreover, you should get live video feeds.
          • Your team will also need remote access to media stored on the camera.
          • The platform should allow you to configure flying missions.
          • You need timely information about the battery, remote controller, etc.

Read “What is a drone: main features & applications of today‘s drones” to learn more about these technical features.

Building a drone app for your construction business

Let‘s review the steps to create a drone app for your construction business, and these are as follows:

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1. Define the project scope

You need to first onboard a project manager (PM), an IT architect, and business analysts (BAs), subsequently, they need to define the project scope. The IT architect should have the appropriate AWS solutions architect certification. I recommend the following scope:

          • Functional features according to your business requirements;
          • Technical features like flight control, camera management, configuring flying missions, etc.

You should build the app for Windows platform, moreover, the app should work with Android and iOS platforms.

2. Choose the right SDLC model

A drone app for the construction business will have a set of well-defined requirements, moreover, a strategic project like this needs thorough reviews after every key milestone. I recommend that you use the Waterfall SDLC model for this project, and you can learn about it in “What is software development life cycle and what you plan for?”.

3. Agree on a development approach

I recommend the following approach for this project:

          • Use managed cloud services like Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) so that you don‘t need to manage the infrastructure.
          • You should also consider using a Mobile-Backend-as-a-Service (MBaaS) platform so that you don‘t need to develop and manage the mobile backend.
          • Use a drone app development kit to expedite the project.
          • Enhance test coverage using a test automation aid.

You can read “What is the best development approach to guarantee the success of your app?” to understand the importance of this approach.

4. Form a development team

The PM now needs to form the rest of the development team, which needs the following roles:

          • UI designers;
          • Drone developers;
          • Android developers with Java skills;
          • iOS developers with Objective-C skills;
          • Testers;
          • DevOps engineers.

While the idea of hiring freelancers could be tempting, I recommend that you hire a field expert development team. Read “Freelance app development team vs. field expert software development teams” to learn why this is important for complex projects.

5. Sign-up for AWS managed cloud services

I recommend that you sign-up for Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), i.e., the IaaS offering from AWS. This frees you up from managing the IT infrastructure for the Windows app. You should also sign-up for AWS Amplify, which is the MBaaS offering from AWS since this frees you up from developing and managing the mobile backend.

AWS Amplify will come in handy for implementing features like user management, security, etc., moreover, you can easily integrate databases and 3rd party APIs when you use Amplify. Scaling your mobile apps is easier with Amplify.

6. Get a Drone development kit

I recommend that you use DJI, which is a popular drone platform. The company offers SDKs for developing apps around their drones, and you can access them on its developer portal. The DJI SDKs support all categories of its drones.

DJI offers SDKs for all the key aspects of your drone app, e.g.:

You need to register with DJI to use its SDKs.

7. Sign-up for a test automation aid

The Android mobile drone app you develop needs to work with all Android, likewise, the iOS app should work with all iOS devices. This requires you to test the apps with a wide range of devices, however, that‘s not easy with open-source testing frameworks.

I recommend that you use the Experitest mobile device lab, which offers hundreds of mobile devices on the cloud. You can also use the Experitest SeeTest Reporter, which offers robust test reports and analytics and this helps the testing team.

8. App development, testing, and deployment

I recommend that you develop apps for the DJI Matrice family of drones since it‘s a good choice for industrial use cases. Proceed with the development as follows:

Windows drone app development

Use the DJI Windows, UX, Onboarding, and Payload SDKs to develop the Windows app. You can code this app using Java, moreover, you can get deployment guidance in this AWS CodeDeploy documentation.

The mobile app UI design

Your employees need user-friendly UIs for the Android and iOS apps, therefore, I recommend that you consult the following guidelines:

Android app development

You need to take the following steps to develop the Android drone app:

          • Code it using Java and Android Studio, the popular IDE for Android development.
          • Integrate the DJI Android SDK into the code.
          • Use Espresso and the Experitest mobile device lab to test the app.
          • Follow these instructions to publish the app to Google Play.

iOS app development

Developing the iOS drone app involves the following steps:

          • Use Xcode, the IDE for developing apps for Apple platforms, and code the app using Objective-C, the feature-rich language that many iOS developers know.
          • Use the DJI iOS SDK to implement the core features of the drone app.
          • Test the app using XCTest, moreover, use the Experitest mobile device lab to test it against a wide range of iOS devices.
          • You need to publish the app to the Apple App Store by following this guide.

 

Planning to launch a drone app for your construction business?

Drone apps can make your construction business more efficient, however, developing such an app is complex. I recommend that you engage a reputed software development company for this project. You can read our guide “How to find the best software development company?” for finding such a service provider.

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Aran Davies

Blockchain Expert | Developer | Writer | Photographer
I love all things blockchain and related to app development. What time I have when I am not busy writing for the DevTeam.Space blog of over 350 articles, I spend sitting around wondering what the future will look like 50 years from now.
Aran Davies