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How are drones used in the construction industry?

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Chris Anderson is the CEO of 3D Robotics, founder and chairman of the Linux Foundation’s Dronecode Project, and founder of the DIY Drones and DIY Robocars communities. From 2001 through 2012, Chris was the Editor in Chief of Wired Magazine. Before Wired he was with The Economist for seven years in London, Hong Kong and New York. He has led 3DR from a start-up, to drone manufacturer and now to drone services company. In this edition of the Drone Radio Show, Chris talks about drones can be used in the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry and how 3DR is positioning itself to serve this critical industry. He’ll also share some thoughts and perspectives on the drone industry itself.


In This Episode
  • 3D Robotics Emergence As A Software Company. Chris summarizes the evolution of 3DR as a start up to drone manufacture and, more recently, to a drone software and services company. He explains that the while the company started as a drone manufacturer, the intention was not to build robots. It was to put sensors in the sky and extend the Internet to people and companies. He talks about the three phases of the drone industry – the early adopters, the manufacturing phase and the software and applications phase.  3D Robotics played a key role in each phase, and is now focused solely on software and applications for the architectural, engineering and construction industry.  A partnership with Autodesk has enabled the company to reach and support clients in the construction industry.
  • Drones in the Construction industry. Chris talks about how large drones can be used to create the design and engineering surfaces to create the plans. Once construction starts, sensors can be used to monitor process, design compliance, find imperfections and streamline the construction process. Everything in the construction process can be digitized. The process of digitizing all facets of the construction process fits into an overall Building Information Model (BIN) which is growing as a practice within the industry.
  • 3D Robotics Site Scan. 3D Robotics’ Site Scan is a platform that enables drone users to inspect, survey and scan work sites and deliver data to the cloud for processing and analytics. It’s designed for the construction industry and leverages image capture from Sony and cloud processing from Autodesk to deliver an end­-to-­end solution that is ready­-made for existing reality-capture workflows. The system is autonomous and allows users to complete preprogrammed missions by pressing a few buttons on a tablet.
  • Opportunities. The construction industry is the second largest industry sector in the world.  It is an 8 trillion dollar industry and is beset by labor shortages. Companies are looking for ways to automate routine tasks, as one way to deal with shortages and improve efficiencies. Although flying sensors may be new, the industry has been moving towards automation and digitization for years. Drones are seen as a natural step in this process. Not every company is using a BIN Methodology, so growth in this area is tied to the pace on companies move to digitizing data. Chris sees this as being a long-term process, which sets the stage for a long-term, growth demand for drones in the industry. At the present time, large commercial projects in suburban locations make for the best use cases for BIN and drone use.
    Perspective on the Drone Industry. Chris’ view of the industry is much like the Internet itself, where it’s not like the entire world switched into in overnight. There are early adopters. Those adopters find allies that allow the technology to spread out to other industries, like construction. Adoption will continue to grow.
  • Advice to Others. The key observation by Chris to others is that “it’s not about the drone.”  The industry has evolved to the point where the flying technology is accepted and the only variable is the software and applications. CEO’s should focus on solving real world problems with data, which leads to a software solution. These solutions may not seem exciting or sexy, but it’s how advanced technologies have real world impact.
  • Lessons Learned. Years in the drone industry has led Chris to conclude that the drone industry moves at “smartphone speed”. The pace of innovation has been faster than originally thought. Today, people don’t focus on their phone, they focus on what they can do with the phone. That’s the same for drones – software will be the key consideration.  Chris also sees the need and value for an open source platform like Linux Foundation’s Dronecode Project particularly to serve government users that are looking for an option that can serve their needs and include certain standards for cyber security and access.
  • Closing. Chris’s message is to look for ways to solve real world problems with data  – look for solutions that go from “nice to have” to “must have” appeal. Once you have that part of the question figured out, the drone part is surprisingly easy to address.
Mentioned Links
  • 3D Robotics (www.3dr.com)
  • Drone Code (www.dronecode.org)
  • Autodesk (www.autodesk.com)

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