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Drones Impact on Worker Safety

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Although it’s surely appreciated by Hollywood producers looking for a (much) cheaper way to create those sweeping aerial shots that were once done by helicopters, the most significant aspect of the drone revolution on the world will likely be what they will mean for construction sites across the world.

For most, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – or drones, as they are more commonly known — are either the object of hobbyist affections or Christmas gifts that bring non-enthusiasts joy until they are forgotten by the first day of spring. But, as both flight and imaging technology advance, the commercial uses (and need) for such devices has expanded dramatically.

A November 2016 study estimated that 35,000 drones would be required in the near future to help survey “a large proportion of over 2 million estimated construction sites in Europe” and use has only expanded since then. According to DroneDeploy, there was a 239% increase in drone use on construction sites the next year. The reasons for this growth are easy to understand: As Rachel Burger notes for The Balance, drones can be used for everything from initial land surveys to transferring of supplies to where they are needed most in a given moment.

But the potential impact on worker safety stands above all.

Drones’ Impact on Worker Safety

Real-time communicating between supervisors and site workers on project progress can be done with visual data collection, geothermal imaging and digital surface models that allow previously undetectable risks to be uncovered before they become a problem. Additionally, the ability to access previously difficult-or-completely-impossible-to-reach perspectives offers the best chance to meaningfully change the risks involved with routine maintenance and inspections that are necessary to ensure the safety of the public and workers alike.

Some of the more specific benefits of drones in inspections are highlighted in a Minnesota Department of Transportation report from 2017, which cited – in addition to drones’ ability to reduce cost and raise the quality of inspections – two separate (and significant) risk factors that drone use helps mitigate. First is the substitution of drones for tall ladders or lifts, which both pose safety risks. And the MNDOT also found that drones largely eliminate the need to enter confined spaces for those doing the inspecting.

Will A Drone Take My Job?

Thankfully, while automation and advances in technology have adversely affected other industries’ workers, drone use appears poised to be a supplemental part of the staff instead of a replacement for members of the team. In fact, as drone use expands on job sites, it’s likely that drone pilots will be in high demand for those companies looking to maximize efficiency and profitability.

So, next time you encounter a drone on a job site, don’t go full Ron Swanson. See it a chance to keep yourself safe and maybe, make a new friend.