Drone Regulations: Everthing What You Need to Know

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When working on a construction jobsite, contractors need to follow regulations and laws created to keep everyone safe.

From adjusting weight limits on lifts to limiting emissions on equipment, regulations are focusing on the future. One new regulation from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), is changing the equipment that hovers over the jobsite and it’s not surprising how quickly your company is going to have to adapt. Drones are on the rise and as contractors seeking to use these highly effective flying machines, you need to know what the regulations say and how it will impact your operation from the moment they take off.

Opportunities in the Sky

The drones market is forecasted to reach $22.15 billion globally by 2022, according to a report by Stratistics MRC. The drone market is growing for a number of reasons. Drones lower the cost of continuous surveillance, monitoring, and patrolling. Patrolling and surveillance data can be intelligently captured and transmitted in realtime instead of with a feedback loop.

Regardless of the key advantages to adopting drones, there are always hurdles. The challenges include privacy concerns, government regulations, controlling drones, accidents, and the lack of professional pilots.

The FAA has instituted some pretty strict regulations regarding the use and piloting rules surrounding drone use. After getting feedback on the regulations and reviewing procedures, the FAA recently came up with new comprehensive regulations for routine non-recreational use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), otherwise known as drones. The provisions of the new rule were designed to minimize risks to other aircraft and people and property on the ground. They highlight weight limits, line of sight, and right of way, to name just a few changes. These restrictions actually will make it easier for contractors to use drones on the jobsite.

Challenges and Opposition 

As a result, when it comes to adapting to these new regulations and legislation, bringing new technology in can aid the constriction jobsite. The tech can be useful and can solve some challenges that have been lingering in the industry. Patrick Stuart, senior director of product, Skycatch, says there are three big challenges the industry needs to be aware of: communication and visibility, liability after the project is done, and labor shortages.

The first two have always been obvious since the introduction of drones on the jobsite. The good news, however, is that there are new tools available that can help that weren’t readily available before. Stuart adds, “Drone regulations are one area where there was a challenge and the changes to the regulations made it better for the technology to get used in the industry.”

Another area of concern is data collection and consumption. Gabe Dobbs, vice president of business development and policy at Kespry says a major challenge is collecting data in a cost and time efficient manner to keeps projects on time.

There are solutions to capture survey-grade topographical data on a jobsite and they reduce the time and cost for capturing as-builts, comparing actuals to plan, measuring stockpile volumes, and validating earthworks without having to pay for expensive and time consuming survey services.

There can be some opposition and issues when getting new technology to be used. Stuart explains that the roadblocks to adopting the technology have mostly been internal. Risk managers have been nervous and weren’t willing to adopt the technology. With the regulations easing, they are now more willing to adopt it.

Still there is a lot of hesitancy at the jobsite. Dobbs admits getting construction to overcome the status quo might be the biggest battle to date. People tend to be hesitant, but the technology is here today and ready to be used, Dobbs says.

Safety and Drones

While much has been written about drones, little has focused on the advantages of the safety side since the regulations have been put in place and more contractors are taking a leap of faith and adapting the new tech changes. All drones are aircraft, regardless of their size or how high they are flying. Drones are not to be flown higher than 400 feet and cannot weigh more than 55 pounds. The line of sight must always be maintained. Having fail safes on the drone will help ensure the technology will stay safe in the event of a malfunction or problem. These are a few ways the FAA is making drone flight safer.

Stuart says safety is very important. “The regulations and processes to make sure you’re operating safely is key. We look to regulatory agencies to allow companies to use their tools how they need to safely. The regulatory agencies help companies by having the data and research available to study and learn about new tech to decide (to) adopt it or not,” Stuart says. As with drones, the FAA has reviewed them and created the regulations to help operators use them safely and be more comfortable integrating them into their work.

Dobbs says there’s a very long list of benefits for everyone involved in the jobsite workflow, as well as the executive team back at the office. The main advantages are in the quality and accuracy of information. Drones can keep an eye on the progress of the project, watch for inefficiencies on the jobsite, and provide visual confirmation of aspects of the project’s status, among other advantages.

Drone usage on the construction jobsite is still fairly new and the advantages are still being measured at many construction companies.

When deciding to use a new technology, such as a drone on the jobsite, contractors need to know a few things.

Stuart says, “The most important thing is don’t get left behind. The most forward-thinking companies using the new tech on projects are moving forward. The overall investment in technology has gone up.Contractors need to pay attention to what others are using to keep up. The technology helps with safety, sustainability, and efficiency.”

Contractors have to embrace new technology. Drones can be valuable on the jobsite. They are the ones with innovate ideas that win them more business because they use drones.

Dobbs adds, “There are more and more drone and software products in the market today that make it difficult for professionals to know which way to go. Our recommendation is for customers to use a product before they invest in it and make sure you’re clear on the total cost of ownership, as many solutions seem inexpensive but have extra costs built in later that can make them more expensive overall.”

The overall consensus among the experts is that contractors should not be afraid to embrace drones in whatever form they take—especially as government regulations continue to evolve. As more and more drones fly over your jobsite, they will be the eyes you need to collect all the information necessary, saving you time and money, and so much more.


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