Drones on construction sites are becoming more and more common these days. If you’re thinking of making the leap, here are five things you should ask of any potential drone provider who’ll be ultimately flying drones over your jobsite.
1. Are your pilots licensed with clearance in this airspace?
Building without the proper permits or using unlicensed subs can cost you time, money and ultimately, your license. For a Drone Pilot in the U.S., it’s no different with flight. Drone pilots for hire must have a “Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate” (also known as a Commercial Drone License) issued by the FAA. In addition, if your jobsite is in controlled or restricted airspace, pilots must obtain an authorization or waiver to fly there. If you hire an unlicensed pilot, or allow them to fly without proper authorization on your site, you could be held liable for their non-compliance.
2. Do You Have Insurance?
In any industry, Risk Management is paramount-especially in the construction business. Insurance requirements are clearly spelled out and usually one of the first things required of a sub before starting work on a jobsite. With drones, it should be no different. A reputable drone provider should have a standard policy of at least $1 million in liability with $10 million not uncommon for construction site drone operators.
3. What is your experience with active construction sites?
Apart from insurance, this is probably the most important question of them all. With their low price and relative ease of flight, there’s no shortage of drone pilots willing to fly for a buck. But, flying a busy site with constantly-moving heavy machinery and open hazards requires experience, concentration, and a safety-first mentality. Make sure your drone provider understands this and has operators with the necessary experience before they add their aircraft to the equation.
4. What can you provide and how will it be delivered?
Drones can provide valuable insight quickly, safely and be very cost-effective compared to traditional methods. But, they can also provide too much data that can be overwhelming. Know your goals ahead of time and work with your drone provider to achieve those. Then, have a secure method of distribution that includes everyone who needs access to the data generated. Define your need for interpretation. If you’re going to need data analysis and reporting, you’ve got to find a provider who has the resources to do this in the format you need.
5. How large is your operation?
There are any number of ways to ask this question since what you’re trying to gauge is a potential drone provider’s attention to detail and ability to attend to your needs. Whether it’s a weekly mission with 24-hour turnaround or an unscheduled flight to document site conditions after a weather event, you want to know that you’re going to get the service you want and need.
Finding a drone provider that is experienced and capable on the jobsite can take some time, but asking the right questions should get you on the path to hiring the right company that you can work with for years to come.
Mike Sobola is a Private Pilot and Commercial Drone Pilot with Mid-Atlantic Drones. He has logged more than 800 hours as Pilot-in-Command of a drone-with more than 600 of those on active construction sites.