There is no denying the technological enhancement that Architecture is currently undergoing. From design software to electronic utilities and applications; Architecture is growing into one of the most technically savvy professions in the world. The usage of certain software has made the ability to map geographies very easy. With GIS, site mapping and analysis has become easier than ever, and one of the devices that has accelerated the simplicity is the Aerial Drone.

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The Drone Monitor _©Bobboz /  www.engelvoelkers.com/en/blog/luxury-living/smart-home/futuristic-architecture-drones-changing-building-designs/

One of the best characteristics regarding the use of drones is their ability to capture hard to take images. Drones made their first appearance to the general public in 2006 and are now a significant tool in architecture. Architects mainly use drones for generating photographic views and developing their projects from particular angles. Drones can very well be used throughout the complete construction phase of architectural projects, thereby mapping the progress on-site as pictorial evidence. 

Main Purposes

Some of the main utilities and services that Drones can provide are namely:

  1. 360-degree view of construction sites 
  2. Site studies before any construction work is carried out 
  3. Visualization, Photography and Video recording of finished construction projects
  4. Project monitoring, for verification of the quality of work 
  5. Highlighting work of the Architect, post the project completion

Drones, however, can serve multiple-fold uses for Architects and Property Owners, such as observation of a construction project from all angles and heights, and mainly the precise view, shape and structure of a building’s roof. A building inspection and maintenance can also be undertaken via the usage of drones, they can easily detect structural problems and they can do so precisely.   

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Aerial View of Buenos Aires _©Matias de Caro /  www.archdaily.com/937281/aerial-photographs-of-buenos-aires-empty-streets-during-the-mandatory-quarantine/5e7d16f3b357651b7e0003bb-aerial-photographs-of-buenos-aires-empty-streets-during-the-mandatory-quarantine-photo

Aerial photography has grown into an asset for an architect’s building projects; and has become the most efficient way to ensure site monitoring, as a drone can take automated images from strategic positions. Their efficiency also allows architects to design exact plans and finish projects in a time crunch. An architect can obtain identical shots of the different stages during a project, ensuring the same GPS coordinates, altitude, and camera angles in each image; thereby developing a uniform progression of a project’s different phases. This type of resource can allow the architect/firm to create a portfolio of original works that can stand out, and oust the competition, thereby developing an impressive image, and inciting future clients for collaboration. 

Drones are particularly useful for renovation projects as well, as a drone can be utilised to check the building condition, such as the façade treatment needed, the roof and the production of global perspectives for landscape integration, displaying far more precision than Google Earth. Drones can even facilitate the performance of conformity checks, post-acceptance of construction projects. Video inspection in structural diagnostics is still minimal, albeit possible. 

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The Architecture in Photogrammetry _©UAV Coach / architizer.com/blog/practice/tools/drone-construction/

Advantages & technologies used

Drones are also referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and their usage has increased over the past decade, since the early 2000s. Large contractors and AEC firms like AECOM are regularly using them for site surveys and resource monitoring. While existing models are comparatively weaker to assist with actual construction work by carrying heavy materials, they can, however, easily carry very powerful cameras. Photogrammetry is an extremely useful tool for the 3D mapping of precise images, and these cameras can be used in a way to stitch together, and create a detailed, graphic, full-colour digital model of the site at a resolution equal to or better than traditional surveying techniques.

While the conversion from scan and result isn’t immediate, the work can be done rapidly for large and complex sites, turning a job that would consume weeks, and completing them in a single day. Flying a drone over miles-long dugout sites is far simpler than sending in a group of surveyors. Drone ownership is not as major a necessity as there are a few organizations available for subletting the work. A few companies have even started to produce packages aimed directly towards securing the services of companies in the construction industry.

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Analysis and Geography _©UAV Coach / architizer.com/blog/practice/tools/drone-construction/

Companies currently involved

Kespry and senseFly are a few international companies that are offering easy-to-use drones with full-support packages, this way all that the customers have to deal with at the end are ready-to-use 3-D models. Autodesk, one of the most renowned companies in software production for AEC industries, is moving into the market, and building a far more user-friendly resource for the building industry. The 2015 investment in Skycatch, a drone software and hardware producer for construction, has Autodesk work towards developing 3D Robotics for further development of the software.

DroneDeploy is a company that is using this technology to 3-D-scan buildings. This shall aid in the monitoring of construction progress and the creation of a 3D-design model on-site. AECOM has already been using drones to monitor the quantum of raw materials like gravel and sand on-site. Lightweight sensors mounted on drones can be used to track the temperature and other material characteristics, increasing the data points for architects to track.

Having a drone at the disposal of an architectural practice allows architects in the firm to be proactive. They wouldn’t have to call a service provider every time they needed a drone; they would be able to complete projects faster and more efficiently on their own. Because drones can be used extensively in many phases of a project, they are becoming essential tools in the field of architecture. The professional use of a drone requires a Private Pilot License (PPL) and a Declaration of Practical Competence, requiring a set number of hours of training.

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The Future of Building Devices _©Architecture and Digital Fabrication, ETH /  www.dezeen.com/2015/03/03/movie-drones-building-architecture-ammar-mirjan-gramazio-kohler/

To conclude

While the use of drones for scanning a site is growing into a norm, many architects and designers aspire to utilise UAVs to actively participate in the building aspect of a structure. Researchers at ETH Zurich in Switzerland have started to work towards that direction via the usage of small drones for the construction of small pavilions, either by lifting bricks one by one into a wall; or using drones to weave a fabric bridge. While these can only be deemed as small experiments, the rate of growth observed in drone technology has advanced in the recent decade, with the quantity of money being invested in the area, it’s increasingly likely that this reality can come to fruition sooner than we can foresee.

References:

Dezeen. (2016). Drones can collaborate to build architectural structures. [YouTube video]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4tv899wn94 [Accessed 20 December 2021].

Welink Builders (2021). How are Drones used in Architecture? [online]. (Last updated 30 September 2021). Available at https://www.welinkbuilders.co.uk/blog/drones-architecture [Accessed 20 December 2021].

Jack Balderrama Morley (2021). How You Can Really Use a Drone to Build a Building [online]. (Last updated 2021). Available at https://architizer.com/blog/practice/tools/drone-construction/ [Accessed 20 December 2021].

HALLIE BUSTA (2021). Can I (Legally) Use a Drone? [online]. (Last updated 2021). Available at https://www.architectmagazine.com/technology/can-i-legally-use-a-drone_o [Accessed 20 December 2021].

Author

A final year architecture student, currently studying in SVKM-NMIMS Balwant Sheth School of Architecture, Mumbai, he has allied interests towards architectural photography and writing. Having a penchant for films and philosophy as well, he is of the belief that architecture and design have the ability to capture the most pivotal moments in life itself.

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