Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones as they are commonly known, are significantly growing in popularity and new practical applications are emerging every day. While FPInnovations has been using these drones in an increasing number of forest operation applications, we recently began to explore their benefits as a means to mitigate certain risks on wood construction sites, as wood buildings are most vulnerable during the construction phase.
In the fall of 2015, with funding from Natural Resources Canada’s Transformative Technology Program, FPInnovations conducted two demonstrations to feature the advantages of using drones at wood construction sites. Addressing site fires and moisture infiltration were targeted as important issues of this study. The first flight displayed the ability of a drone to quickly and efficiently conduct an overall building survey within minutes, which would be very useful for large residential developments, and mid-rise and high-rise buildings. The onboard infrared camera indicated possible areas of high moisture and could be used to detect hot spots (after hot work activities) or intruders on site (a concern in terms of theft and arson).
The second flight was performed during a fire services live training exercise. The data that were captured highlighted the ability of the infrared camera to recognize elevated smoke temperatures from a distance. In addition, identifying a fire shortly after ignition, which can be difficult at night, could provide crucial additional time for fire services to control a fire before it spreads throughout the structure.
The value of using UAVs on construction sites is just beginning to be measured. As this developing technology improves and the equipment gets smaller and more cost-effective, its feasibility for use on construction sites will grow substantially.