How can Drones in Construction Enhance the BIM Workflow?
Drones are offering a new perspective for BIM (Building Information Modeling) across the entire construction life-cycle. From as-builts to facility management and compliance, drones are quickly providing more data and solving efficiency problems once unnoticed.
What is BIM?
BIM or building information modeling is a project management technique which allows information to flow across the entire construction process seamlessly. BIM will enable companies to visualize every aspect of the project in 3d space, from plumbing to electric. While the systems haven’t provided the most lifelike models, they help reduce document errors and omissions. Also, a BIM model reduces re-work, increases scheduling efficiency, and reduces claims & litigation.
The purpose of BIM is to break down obstacles that prevent stakeholders in a construction project to access information in real time.
What are BIM Objects?
BIM Objects are the building blocks of a BIM model. Modelers can drag and drop BIM Objects from an extensive Library, and create a model without actually going through the hassle of actually building one. BIM Objects mimic real-life products, not only dimensionally but also functionally. This ability to capture information can be incredibly powerful, prevent design changes, and reduce the likelihood of construction disputes and litigation.
Using Building Information Modeling, it is possible to engineer the most optimum design at the first go with every system necessary for permits to completion. The ability to access manufacturer-stated product information allows for greater collaboration between the designer and the manufacturer and dramatically helps in model optimization.
Remember, BIM is a constant and iterative process.
What are Some Applications of Drones in Construction? How are Drones enhancing BIM Models?
The construction industry loves drones. The proof is in the pudding as the usage of drones in construction has skyrocketed for engineers, construction companies and even surveyors. Drones aid in construction in so many ways. Remember, drones don’t just take pictures, they can also take measurements from pictures or photogrammetry.
Building Information Modeling is a visualization of the size, scale, and functionality of all systems in a building. Drones take this computer-aided design and overlay real-world lifelike 3d models to ensure accurate construction from the plans. It is like a remote site audit.
From the start of a project, drones are used for a permanent record of construction in addition to remote viewing and compliance review. While drones have been great for ensuring work completion and quality, they also aid in precise ways over the life cycle. When the project starts and elevations need to be taken, typically surveyors are called in to get accurate measurements to accurately understand where to lay the foundation and understand where property lines end. Drones are even being used for the ALTA surveys that are used in pre-construction.
Drones in construction are also used to measure the amount of cut and fill to accomplish to create a level foundation. From there, drones can help aid in creating 3D lifelike models via photogrammetry software.
The role of drones in the life cycle of buildings designed with BIM
1. Design phase
It is certainly at this stage that the use of drones in the construction industry has already been widely tested.
In this regard, they are used for surveying the morphology of the land, for existing buildings (including those of historical and artistic interest), or for surveying built-up areas.
The drone site survey is based on the key concepts of photogrammetry: it starts with a series of photos taken that are then processed by special software with technologies called SfM (Structure from Motion), or definition of 3D geometry starting from the movement when you take pictures.
The result is a cloud of points that can be further processed to create three-dimensional mesh models. These models then form the basis for generating the BIM model.
Drone surveys can also be integrated with laser scanner surveys, resulting in even more precise and detailed point clouds.
In addition, drones can provide us with accurate and fast panorama images of large sites and high-risk areas or areas that are normally difficult to inspect. In this way, today it is possible to obtain three-dimensional models of places that until a few years ago were unreachable.
The large amount of data collected can be used to plan construction activities, thus generating a new and interesting connection between drones, BIM and urban planning.
2. Operation phase
With the transition from design to construction execution, the role of drones changes. Certainly, there are countless difficulties to be faced on construction sites, unforeseen circumstances and variables that are difficult to manage. Critical issues that these technologies can keep under control.
To this end, drones can be used to monitor / control the evolution and status of the construction site during operations. This is necessary to verify the real correspondence between project and construction, in fact the photos and videos obtained from drones can be uploaded on BIM collaboration platforms, where they are automatically shared among all the actors involved, based on the degree of authority they have.
Hence, one of the major difficulties in managing a construction site can be overcome through constant updating of documentation, graphics and photographs, during the progress of the project, and rapid data sharing.
With the introduction of drones and BIM platforms in the construction sector, it is possible to share a series of aerial shots and high-definition videos in real time, in order to have full control of the site without actually being on the place.
A second type of drone application on construction sites during this phase is related to safety.
Through monitoring, which can be pre-set and therefore automated, it is possible to study, understand and monitor the movement of workers and moving vehicles. This allows you to prevent accidents, avoid interference between different processes, study the construction of the site in an optimal manner.
3. Facility management phase
Once the construction phase is complete, the facility management phase must be tackled, which can still present a series of difficulties and peculiarities.
The long-life span of a building also makes it unlikely to assume that building management and maintenance responsible persons always remain the same. The transition between different operators, from manufacturer to facility managers, can cause the loss of information and data relating to the building and the various maintenance operations carried out, as well as to the characteristics of the building itself.
The use of BIM models allows you to have an updated model that can be used for maintenance interventions planning. It allows not only to know the exact positioning of each plant system or construction element, but also to trace exactly when it was installed during the operations and who performed the work.
In the BIM model, all maintenance interventions, photos and inspection reports can be archived, so as to have an updated archive with the complete data relating to the entire life cycle of the building.
Drones represent ideal tools in this phase for performing inspections of parts of the building that are difficult to reach in total safety.
4. Dismantling phase
Finally, drones can be used to monitor disassembly, demolition and restoration phases of buildings that have reached the end of their life cycle.
In this phase the BIM model, which allows you to know in depth every element that constitutes the building, by going backwards and following the original construction phases, easily facilitates the disassembly and demolition phases. The in-depth knowledge of a building also enables stakeholders to identify any elements that could be recovered, or any particular material that needs to be disposed of with greater care (special waste, dangerous substances, etc.).