Next time you have an issue at work, you could be forced to vent your concerns to a drone instead of a human boss.
The use of UAVs has spread to numerous high-caliber industries, from photography and recording to e-commerce, and now, construction. Drones are slowly taking over the monotonous tasks of managers, which could transform the way on-site operations are supervised.
“We highlight at-risk locations on a site, where the probability of having an issue is really high,” said Mani Golparvar-Fard, an assistant professor in the department of civil engineering at the University of Illinois, who developed the software with several colleagues.
Remote Boss 2.0
The new drone technology is currently being used on the site of a new downtown stadium for the Sacramento Kings in California. Every day, a commercial flier captures photos and videos of the work area. The footage is fed through a software, where it is placed against previous versions of the plans. Projects managers then sift through the data and tackle issues that would otherwise go undetected. For busy bosses, the updated information is accessible from remote locations.
Some concerns that individuals have with the new system include privacy, motivation and pressure to work excessively due to strict monitoring. Such problems may be addressed by applying algorithms that only focus on work-related elements.
Monitoring for Efficiency
While drones can be used to catch workers who are slacking off on the construction site, the machine also serves other purposes that are essential to the completion of the massive project. From a distance, coordinators have the option to allocate supplies without disrupting the workflow.
A fast-moving UAV also has the capacity to monitor multiple teams at once in real-time. This can greatly reduce the number of supervisors on the site (and ease the employment budget for HR executives).
“It’s not new to the construction industry that there would either be people standing and observing operations, or that there would be fixed cameras,” highlighted Golparvar-Fard.
“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.”
From an efficiency perspective, machines have several advantages over humans. First, they never get tired or sick. An in-house engineer takes care of the meticulous upkeep, but other than that drone maintenance is generally very predictable. Next, commercial quadcopters make decisions based on data (without the influence of stress and human emotions), which makes them very reliable in the workplace.
For now, drones lack heavy-duty capabilities. They break easily, and light bumps can throw them off their aerial course. But as UAV technology becomes more advanced, their uses around construction sites will expand to a range of duties outside of monitoring.
Eventually, drones will be able to carry loads around the site. Through complex extensions, land surveys and audio announcements may also be conducted using the flying pods in the near future.