Houston construction workers using drones after new FAA regulations passed

New FAA regulations announced last week has led to construction workers using drones in downtown Houston. The drones are being used to take photos of construction sites in high definition quality. Construction managers say the drones are beneficial at the

HOUSTON - New FAA regulations passed in August are allowing new uses of drones, including in the construction industry.

In one of the first projects nationwide, downtown Houston is seeing drone technology at work at the new Hines building. 

Sometimes it’s hard to see the big picture clearly, but drone technology is changing that for construction workers.

“(By using a drone) Companies can get a better view, a safer view of their assets as opposed to hanging off a side of a building or using a manned helicopter.” said Jeremiah Johnson with the robotics company 3DR.  

Austin Commercial is one of the contractors on the 32 floor midrise on Market street. On Thursday, the contractors along with software company Autodesk, 3D-R and our KHOU 11 photographer hiked up to the roof of the unfinished building to launch a drone demonstration. 

The Site Scan drone takes high resolution photos. Autodesk’s Tristan Randall explained the range of tasks the drone can be used for. “Looking at precision and verifying accuracy, to monitoring equipment movements, to just surveying sites on a daily or weekly basis.” Randall said. 

The photos can show items measuring as small as half an inch.

Giving an example, Austin Commercial’s Joe Jones said, “On level 12 I’ve got brick. Does it line up with the brick on level 15 or 17? I’ll be able to know that in a click, instead of having to spend the time to go out and measure that.” 

The potentially big cost saver? Keeping on schedule by saving on rework when problems are found early. 

“It gives us a chance to address them without slowing the train down.” Randall said.

The drone has auto pilot, with programmable missions and uses GPS to maintain its course. It is tablet based and 3DR said it’s easy to use, by swiping your finger and selecting an area on the tablet. 

“Due to FAA rules we do have to have manual controls in case something goes wrong.” Johnson said.

According to Austin Commercial, the technology will not cut jobs, but will cut back on overtime by reducing the fixes or rework.

The drone, which costs about $10,000 (largely because of the camera) can fit into a small carryon suitcase. It weighs just 4.5 lbs and measures 14 by 14 inches.


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