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CEE 2201 Construction Cost Engineering

Published : 05-Oct,2021  |  Views : 10



"Identification and Mitigation of Drone Risks on Construction Sites"



Drones hovering over the construction to supervise the construction activities are a more common feature than in the previous years (Byman 40).  However, still, they are not as common as hammers and other construction tools. Drones are also commonly referred as unmanned air-crafts. There are several regulations in force guiding the usage of UAS at the construction sites (Volker 27). The following discussion is all about the usage of drones at the construction sites. The later part of the text will be focussing on the risks involved in using the drones at the construction sites (Clarke 280).

Objectives of the report:

  • The primary aim of the write-up is to provide with an in-depth discussion of the possible risks in the usage of drones, particularly in the construction sites.
  • The other objective is to present the possible ways of mitigating the risks with the usage of drones.  Other details include literature review and inclusion of Regulations of related associations like FAA etc.

Literature review

When it comes to the cost of the Drones, the main component of the cost will be for the camera employed in the drone it may cost as high as $50,000 at the same time the actual cost of the drone can be as low as $500. Hence depending on the needs and application requirements, people will be using cameras of different costs and as per the requirements of the construction sites (Clothier 280). The key benefits of using drone lie in the ease of doing the aerial survey of the construction works. Particularly, for the case of massive construction works, using drones to survey the actual construction process will provide a quick and real-time observation of the actual construction work in progress (clothier 1180). Also using a drone for the sake of construction will work on to provide a detailed overview of the safety at the work place. Construction site safety is a very common feature that can be managed well using the drone technology. Also, it is possible to undertake construction work using drone technology. Drone and the related real-time overview of the construction work progress can be reported to provide extensive detailing of the deficiencies of the project progress and all the incidents of mismatches with the project completion times are well managed using drone technology. It is possible to use the drones to study very complex structures under construction. Drone enables the monitoring of the safety procedures and the workflow processes in real time. Further the project documentation can be done in more detail using the drone technology and associated digital photography techniques. The safety of the worker as well as the safety of the structure can be well managed using the drone technology. Drones can also be employed to measure the stock piles of inventory at the work place and more precise estimation of the inventory in process can be estimated using the drone technology.

FAA Regulations:

FAA regulations are expected to be followed without prejudice to enable the usage of drone at the workplace. Even in the case of using well-trained pilot and coming into compliance with all the possible regulations, there is still a possibility that there can be a number of risks possible with the usage of drone.


A profile of possible Risks and identification:

Drones may come into contact with the birds and subsequently may result in the crash, data loss and device failure. Drone crash may cost considerable amount and the frequent drone crashes may become financially detrimental for the construction organization to continue its work. In the regions where there are high winds, drone's  lift and drag forces will not be sufficient to keep it stable in the air and subsequently may result in crash and damage to the device.  It is also possible that the drones while flying in air may come across the zones where the wire-less contact can be lost which ultimately may result in control failure of the device. Hacking the drone is also possible if non standard devices are being employed as well mediocre technology based drones are being used in the site. Further untrained pilots and unprofessional control of drone may result in damage to the device as well can cause harm to the people in the vicinity and may result in serious accident implications to the people in the nearby sites.

Risks associated with flying drones in the constructions sectors which are very much nearer to airports are immense. When the manned flights are taking off or landing, they will be moving to heights which are less than the usual flight altitude. In such situations, if drones are flying, the possible damage that can happen with a clash is quite immense. Both intentional and unintentional collisions can result in severe damage to the aircraft as well as to all the people in the surroundings (Boyle 90). It is estimated that as high as $10m loss can happen just physically if a drone hit an aircraft at the airport. Also, it is possible that it may cause life loss with the associated aircraft collapse. Drones may result in high risk when they are flying nearer to the aircrafts as well when they lost control from the pilot, who will be controlling the flight from the ground. It is more proximate to crash risk, if the drone is flying in the zones where helicopters and agricultural flights are flying. (Gallacher 120). It is also possible that the risk of the usage of drones will escalate if there are using at the construction sites, which are in proximity to high traffic areas. A drone crash on a truck windscreen and subsequent, property and life loss may account for millions. Drones can be easily subjected to the cyber attacks, as they are generally controlled by the Wi-Fi signals, it is possible that the hackers can use the signals for hacking the drone and can make them crash causing intense property and life loss (Gorman). Also, it is possible that a hacker can do theft of very critical information from the drone-related to the construction site. Another potential risk in using a drone is the loss of privacy of others and which can result in facing legal suites for millions of dollars of compensation.  Even though the possible risks vary from case to case, a detailed analysis of the drone usage provide the above listed possible risks. Hence it is required to have a more detailed focus with specialist consultants and risk identification agencies to assess in more detail the possible risks. For example, a construction proximate to an airport results in crash risk with the aircrafts. Hence a detailed analysis of case to case is required to assess the possible risks in more detail.


(i)One of the evident and mandatory measure in mitigation of the risk is associated with UAV is succumbing to good insurance plans(Cioaca et al.). Operators need to protect themselves as well should protect the general public using appropriate insurance plans. Proper training and certification of the pilots should be made strictly mandatory and the actual training and education program should cover diverse pathways to control the operation of the devices. It is required to have full spectrum education of the drones like there is need for complete education of the battery systems, radio technology, flight timing calculation, meteorology, flight timing calculations, system maintenance and training to fly the drones over complex sites like forests, high traffic areas (Custers 18).

(ii) The controlling technology to be employed for the drones need to be quite robust and more than one type of control mechanisms are needed to make flight more reliable and dependable(Sifton 330)

(iii) It is also possible if they are no specialist pilots available for operating the risks, in such cases the drone can be used for the third party operators on hire basis. In such cases the risk of the physical damage to the public as well other obligatory risks of breach of the rights of others like neighbors etc. can be transferred to the hired person by employing proper contractual terms in the contracts(Kumar).

(iv)In-house organizational procedures to use the flight of the UAV need to be well documented and the personnel related with the flight of the drone need to be informed of the procedure in which the drone needs to be used. The operating protocols will cover all the operating conditions of the drone(Hubbard).

(v) The underlying safety principles at which the drone need to be operated like, working at only day-time and in daylight, limiting the total load of the drone, limiting the altitude at which the drone need to fly etc. should be well documented and strictly should be enforced in the premises. At the same time, FAA regulations need to be strictly enforced in association with drone flying(Holt).

(vI) Privacy considerations and mandatory instructions recording of the data like sight and construction features etc need to be well documented and they need to be followed well when the drone is being employed in the construction sites(Herman).

(VII) Also when the flight operations need to be authorized by employing more qualified and the authorized persons for the flight. Apart from the operators even the observers and the supporting staff used for the unmanned aircraft flying operations need to be well qualified and should be well trained in operating the drone at construction sites(Latteur 28).

(VIII) There should be pre-flight meeting for every drone flight in the actual construction scenario. During the flight, it is required to evaluate the flight conditions, the flight path, safety aspects, climatic conditions, drone readiness for flight, crew availability as well as feasibility of the flight in the prevailing  conditions. Also, approval from the site manager and any if permits required as per in-house policies need to be assessed and considered before the actual flight conditions(Omar).

(IX) Before every flight, the drone pilot need to be guided to undertake a self-evaluation of his readiness to take up the flight like whether he is ready to take up the flight, whether, is suffering from any illness that may interfere with the test operation, whether he is taking up any on-counter drugs that may interfere with the safety  of the flight? Whether he is experiencing any stress that may interfere with safe flight? Once if all the said conditions are satisfactory then only it can be considered safe to take up the flight  (Howard).

(X) FAA regulations regarding the altitude as well as the speed of the flight should be enforced during the flight through protocols. Rules on the limitation on the weight of the drone to be less than 55pounds, restricting the flight only in the class G space without permissions, allowing the flight in class  B, C, D, E airspaces requires the approval from ATC. Also, it is mandatory to fly the UAV only after complete inspection process. The maximum ground speed of UAS is 100 mph.

(XI) A strict and fault proof contingency plan is needed for drones, typical problems like emergency program making the drone land in unscheduled areas during the situations like battery off need to be avoided by making good contingency plans(Clothier).

(X) To compliant with the privacy principles, Drone will not be allowed to fly over the people who are not connected with the UAV operations.

(XI) Only in the cases where they are justified, section 107 waiver can be applied, and the principles under exemption section 333 can be applied to the drone operations(Cronin 44).

Inspite of having a detailed risk mitigation plan in place and even after all the conditions of the organization are well managed there is every chance that a drone can meet with an accident and in all such instances it is possible that a drone operator can face civil liability litigations(Pauner 2015). Depending on the severity of the loss experienced the company may need to face huge fines and the sanctions. Hence to avoid the inevitable loss to the company, it is required that the organization need to develop strict plans for incident response management(Griek). A well trained and properly streamlined operations of the incident response management team is required and they will be working out to protect the evidence in case of any disaster and an accompanying correction action can be taken in right time(Tuttle,30). Typically the incident response teams can work on to reduce the severity of the seriousness of the damages that can be reduced as well will enable protection for the company in the case of any litigation if arised(Gregory 1320).


Usage of drones is providing unprecedented advantages to the construction managers, however, still, risks are inevitable. Yet strict compliance with FAA regulations as well developing and enforcement of safe operating practices will make the risks minimized.


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Byman, Daniel. "Why drones work: The case for Washington's weapon of choice." Foreign Affairs 92.4 (2013): 32-43.

Boyle, Michael J. "The race for drones." Orbis 59.1 (2015): 76-94.

Clarke, Roger, and Lyria Bennett Moses. "The regulation of civilian drones' impacts on public safety." Computer Law & Security Review 30.3 (2014): 263-285.

Clothier, Reece A., et al. "Risk perception and the public acceptance of drones." Risk analysis 35.6 (2015): 1167-1183


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