It is easy to capture the value of an activity directly related to a construction activity- 2 principally identical vendors bid on the exact same scope, 1 costs 5% less, the decision is simple. It is more difficult to capture the value of a service not directly tied to a construction activity, a cost typically rolled into GCs or OH&P. That's not to say it doesn't bring value- a cell phone doesn't add any 'direct' value to a construction process, but there is no doubt that it adds value to a project. The same could be said of project management software, even a project manager for that matter.
That being said, across the industry builders utilizing drones claim extraordinary efficiencies and are being utilized enterprise wide, yet many builders are reluctant to integrate this practice into their projects. This article is intended to capture the return on investment using drones in the construction process.
To preface this, drone imagery, maps and topography provides another set of eyes on your project. From a view hundreds of feet up to within inches of a condition, drones can safely, easily and inexpensively photograph conditions on site. The architect, engineer, consultants and general contractor don't need to be on site to see something. To be there costs time and money in the form of billable hours (~$100-$200/hr) - traveling to/from the office, meetings, walking around the site; if you're coming from out of town, it now costs a lot of money.
Images also a matter of record- it is impossible to remember every condition on sitewhen conducting a site visit. An issue that arises can be reviewed using pictures to understand the problem and come up with solutions.
Drone imagery cannot replace the invaluable experience of being there to "kick the tires" and check it yourself. To simply reduce site visits, supplementing with drone imagery, can yield substantial savings in 3 primary ways: General Conditions, Design Team Site Visits, and Efficient Workflow. In any of these circumstances, time is money and production efficiency results in cost savings to the owner and/or contractor.
- GENERAL CONDITIONS. A modestly sized projects can easily run $500~$1,000 per day in general conditions. A larger scale project is several thousand. When a project schedule overruns waiting on decisions or correcting an issue that wasn't identified early, owners are hit with substantial change orders for GCs. An issue resolved that was discovered by a photo that saves just 1 day on the critical path has already paid itself off many times over.
- REDUCED SITE VISITS. To repeat, nothing replaces the invaluable experience of being on site. It is, however, terribly inefficient- driving (or flying) to the location, walking around the site, getting caught in discussions and meetings that you add zero value to costs time and money.
An alternative to this would be a current, dimensioned map supplemented with pictures that can be used to effectively manage the site from the office. Vehicles and material are organized intentionally. Traditional take offs from field measurements can now be done from your computer to generate current, accurate volume/area/distance estimations.
In summary, project managers and superintendents need to focus on their core responsibilities. Inefficiencies can be mitigated and optimizations can be exploited; A project management team with weekly photos of every angle and of every critical condition has a comprehensive, clear understanding of what is happening on their site.
- EFFICIENT WORKFLOW. Inevitably there is a disconnect on a project between the design intent of the architect and the means & methods of the contractor. Where that seam exists generates RFIs, that can take days to weeks to answer. If those RFIs can be answered with a visual inspection, precluding a site visit or identifying and correcting the issue early before it becomes an RFI.
Imagery can be utilized to supplement visual inspections as well- QA/QC on building envelopes, concrete pours, roofs, landscaping, or site work can supplement a meeting on site.
- ANCILLARY BENEFITS. Beyond a project management tool, imagery has a benefit of marketing content through video and photos. Additionally, the pictures and maps can be used as teaching tools to document and share lessons learned and best practices.
In summary, the return on investment for drone maps and images comes from efficient processes and opening communication and situational awareness between the design and construction teams, which translate to cost savings.
For a consultation on how drones can be used in your projects, please contact us at Skyview Imagery.