The list of applications of drones in the world of civil engineering seems endless, writes Paudie Barry: from building inspection, initial surveying of sites and ongoing progress monitoring of construction to compiling as-built surveys for project handovers
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The list of applications of drones in the world of civil engineering seems endless, from building inspection, initial surveying of sites and ongoing progress monitoring of construction to compiling as-built surveys for project handovers.

There is no doubting the fact that drones can add significant value, while cutting costs to virtually any construction project. In the following series of articles, I will discuss each topic below in more detail in a series of case studies of projects that Baseline Surveys Ltd carried out with our Egret unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

Carrying out topographical surveys of hospitals, schools, water- and sewage-treatment plants with a drone is every bit as accurate as real-time kinetic global positioning system (RTK GPS), but it delivers a much richer and more quality assured dataset to the client, all at a significantly lower price.

A drone used for roof and building inspection will save the client the cost of putting up scaffolding for certain roof and structural inspections. UAVs can be used to survey quarries and stockpiles much more quickly, more accurately and in a fraction of the time taken by ground surveyors – without the need for risking surveyors wandering around the quarry for days, if not weeks.

Drones can detect and map Japanese knotweed, so the problem areas can be located, quantified, managed and neutralised. Because the knotweed is mapped from above, the risk of spreading is eliminated, unlike surveying knotweed from the ground.

The cost of traffic management is eliminated while carrying out road-realignment surveys with a UAV. Apart from standard topographical survey data, drones provide road-marking condition, pavement condition, rutting, potholes and landscape condition to the client at a lower price than a traditional road realignment survey.

UAVs can end boundary disputes before they even begin by overlaying the Land Registry maps with drone orthophotography, making it very clear exactly where on the ground the red line is for everyone to see.

Coastal-erosion monitoring projects benefit from drones because the high level of data resolution, safety, repeatability and low cost. Flood-protection levies require regular surveying for condition and drones offer a fast, safe and accurate solution.

Surveying golf courses with a drone is less costly and less disruptive to golfers and orthoimagery offers designers a far more intuitive feel for the existing site, with rectified photography. It is a similar story with residential development or most other topographic surveys, but the key to all this is the high spatial accuracy of the data.

Paudie Barry is a land surveyor/UAV operator and managing director with Baseline Surveys Ltd.

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The list of applications of drones in the world of civil engineering seems endless, from building inspection, initial surveying of sites and ongoing progress monitoring of construction to compiling as-built surveys for project handovers. There is no doubting the fact that drones can add significant value, while cutting costs to...