Drone supervisors coming to a building site near you

As the Internet of Things has advanced, the modern factory is becoming a place that is monitored heavily, with managers able to both monitor and adjust things wherever they may be.

You might think that the very nature of a construction site would make that more challenging, but drone based innovations are delivering just that.

A case in point is the construction of a new stadium in California for the Sacramento Kings basketball team.  The workers on the site are being monitored by drones flying overhead that are connected up with software that can automatically track progress on the job.

Drone bosses

The drones fly above the site and collect video footage of the construction.  This is then fed into software that compares the footage with both the architectural plans and the work plan for the project.  It is capable of showing the status of the project, and therefore whether it’s on schedule.

“We highlight at-risk locations on a site, where the probability of having an issue is really high,” say the developers, from the University of Illinois.


Suffice to say, this kind of remote monitoring is not without controversy, but the developers suggest that this kind of monitoring would go on anyway, either with human supervisors or fixed cameras.

“Yes, making this autonomous has a different feeling for the workers. But you have to keep in mind that it’s not really questioning the efficiency of the workers, it’s questioning what resources these guys need to be more efficient,” they say.

The development has emerged due to the falling cost of drone technology coupled with sophisticated software to provide managerial insights.

The drone footage itself is captured by ImageInFlight before the footage is analyzed by the Illinois team.  The managers on the site say that the aerial footage gives them a much better idea of how the project is progressing, and if there is a slowdown in a particular area.

The system is also being used on sites in Arizona and Japan.  Interestingly, the project team are exploring the use of crowdsourcing to categorize the various workers’ activities shown in the video footage.  The manager can then see how various tasks are being performed overall, and indeed how long each individual spends on the job.

Whilst the benefits appear clear from a managerial perspective, it seems sure to evoke some ire from trade unions and other groups concerned with potential privacy issues.

How would you feel if you were monitored by a drone flying overhead?


4 thoughts on “Drone supervisors coming to a building site near you

  1. It's things like this that suggests to me that the BBC's recent 'will a robot take your job' thing was massively under-estimating the impact technological change will reap.

  2. What a great invention to save time for the project managers who often have to work incredibly long hours to ensure the project is kept on schedule. It's great to see this kind of tech coming along to support them.

  3. This is very interesting, and leaving aside all the discussions about privacy, security and so on (things which must be discussed at some point), if those drones increase the productivity and contribute in a positive way to the final product, why not?

    However, I think that I would feel a little uncomfortable if some drones stared at me all day long.

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