Science fiction or science fact - technology of the future is here today

The Museum of the Future is an initiative by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum that explores the future of science, technology and innovation. Opening in Dubai in 2018 it will take visitors on a trip to the year 2035.

However, we don’t need to journey to 2035 to see the incredible technological advances that are already infusing themselves into everyday working lives. Futuristic technologies and smart solutions, such as: surveillance drones, mobile robots that can inspect incidents involving chemical materials and sensors that use gravity to survey underground structures in minutes is being developed now and some of this technology is already being used in the construction industry.

When you think of it, would you be happy hanging onto a 172ft church spire to inspect storm damage when a drone could do the job for you?

Whilst drone delivery fleets are being hailed as Amazon’s next step into the future, this technology is already revolutionising the construction industry with the Environment Agency, Network Rail and HS2 using unmanned aerial vehicles for large scale surveying.

With the use of drones and related technology transforming the surveying and mapping professions with drones being used to survey large agricultural areas, hard to reach properties such as church roofs and even to measure internal spaces, the concern is that jobs will go in its place.

According to an article in Building, head of building surveying at Gleeds, Phil Southgate, believes the introduction of drones has led to a 30% saving on one project alone. He said: “We do major scanning linked to GPS systems. Drones are not as accurate as laser scanning but do give data on large volumes quickly. They also cut out the entire need for an access tower or scaffolding.”

These small, ultra-light weight aircraft can be piloted by remote and take detailed survey information while simultaneously transmitting that data back to the head office. This creates highly accurate maps and measurements and provides valuable data to companies and individuals who are considering major projects on large areas of land.  This new technology has radically reduced health and safety risks and provides a great return on investment due to more accurate data being accumulated, by fewer people, in less time, with quicker results.

The article goes on to consider that what is less certain is whether this new technology will compete with QSs or complement their toolkit.

Vitruvius recently used drone technology when they commissioned a survey on the roof and chimney of 133 The Promenade in Cheltenham for Dunkerton Properties LLP and appointed a pilot to take aerial images of a large site in Tewkesbury for the current project they are working on with Cotteswold Dairy.

It’s easy to see why drones are becoming more common place within the construction industry.  The benefits are clear to see:

  • Highly accurate, high-definition mapping and aerial surveys can be created in a fraction of the time that used to be required
  • Data can be gathered by the drone including photography, LIDAR, and video
  • Information can be instantly uploaded to a server where it can be accessed from anywhere in the world
  • It’s becomes much easier to reach difficult locations with drones, making drones significantly safer in hazardous situations.

However as the RICS stated in an article towards the end of last year, even though the technology is becoming more adaptable and user friendly, the underlying legal framework for operation must still be taken into account if surveyors are to avoid breaking the law.

Irrespective of their size, drones are still classified as aircraft. The person in charge of operating the controls of an unmanned aircraft is referred to as the pilot. The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) does not allow unmanned aircraft to present or create a greater hazard to anyone (or anything) than the equivalent operations of manned aviation. So it’s imperative that when using drones for commercial purposes you check the user has all the relevant licenses in place.