There is no doubt the use of technology in the workplace has soared over the last decade. So what specifically has changed throughout the construction industry?

In  recent years, there has been a notable surge in the adoption of new technologies aiming to enhance construction efficiency, safety, and overall project management. This drive has led to significant advancements, including integrated safety wearables, machine control technology, job site robotics, and more. 

Among these innovations, BR has embraced the use of drones or UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). Like the implementation of GPS technology for surveying, innovations that can make our process more efficient, accurate, affordable, safe, and easier are welcomed by our team!

If you don’t know us, Bituminous Roadways, Inc. is an industry leader providing superior asphalt paving services in Minnesota for more than 75 years. We have decades of experience helping government agencies, organizations, private businesses, and companies in the Twin Cities with asphalt installation and repair.

Drones are easily one of the biggest technological upgrades we’ve seen in our industry. This innovation has made it much easier and more efficient to collect data, ensure safety, and improve accuracy. 

Learn more about drone technology at BR and discover what sets our usage of drones apart! 

Technology Advances Improve Accuracy in Construction 

Accuracy has been the biggest change in the industry over the last 10 years. Machine control has existed for a long time, but we have gone from 0.1 foot accuracy to 1.0 mm accuracy by using total stations. 

The ability to use machine control in tough locations has also increased. It is now possible to capture upwards of 40 satellites, whereas three years ago, in the same location, that number would have been 15. This has increased accuracies 10x and has also made it possible to get under trees and closer to buildings. 

The same thing has happened to the survey equipment, including using drones. In the past, it would have taken days to process any data, which came with 0.5’ accuracy. Today with the help of drones, this data takes only hours to process and is within 0.1’ accuracy. 

Until recently, photogrammetry (a three-dimensional coordinate measuring technique that uses photographs as the basis for measurement) was not all that accurate, so LIDAR (light detection and ranging) was used, which is much more expensive. 

Drone Survey

Additional Advantages of Implementing Drones at BR

One of the main uses of drone technology for BR is measuring stockpiles of materials. Having an accurate count of class 5 aggregate, asphalt rubble, and recycled asphalt products assists in material sourcing. 

Our goal is to use our own material, and by getting accurate counts via drones, we know how much we have or how much we may need to source from other vendors. 

Measure Stockpiles Faster

Today, it is not only possible to capture photographs and video footage from 400 feet in the air, but BR can also measure all of the material stockpiles in about 30 minutes each, getting accuracies down to 0.1’. 

In the past, this task would have taken days!

Gather More Comprehensive Data

It is also possible to topo sites within a matter of minutes instead of hours while getting thousands of points instead of hundreds. 

This allows us to capture more comprehensive data on the site and in areas that are typically difficult to capture. 

Create Safety Maps

Safety is one of BR’s core values, and we can utilize drones as a safety tool, creating maps for the field that are able to address any utility locates, iron, and site progress. 

Repurpose Assets

Finally, using drones to capture a bird's eye view of job sites allows us to use photos for our website, social media posts, and other marketing projects.

What Certifications Do You Need to Pilot a Drone?

To pilot a drone for company use, one must acquire an FAA Remote Pilot Certificate (part 107). 

If the drone use was purely for recreation, the certificate is not technically needed. Still, you do need to be aware of all the rules and regulations associated with flying a drone. 

Currently, BR has three pilots in the company, Nate Larson, Shawn Roseland, and Bret Beckman. 

How Are Drones Utilized By Our Team?

At the outset of 2023, BR implemented a drone program, incorporating the Mavic 3E and the Propellor Platform for data analysis. 

Initially focused on obtaining accurate and timely stockpile reports for our four plants across the cities, the drone quickly revealed its potential for broader applications. 

Many of the sites we operate on pose challenges such as extensive size, inherent dangers like traffic, or intricate grade breaks. The drone effectively addresses these issues, allowing for swift site surveys that take hours instead of days, eliminating safety risks in historically hazardous areas such as roadways, and capturing every detail of the site within the survey.

How Are Drones Being Used By BR’s Competitors?

Many other companies use drones mainly for stockpiling and progress on bigger jobs. It is unknown if any of the competitors are using drones for the safety side of things. 

The Future of Drone Usage at BR

Looking ahead, BR aspires to expand the utilization of our drone program. Presently employed for material inventories and surveying, we envision its role extending to site inspections, enhancing safety measures, supporting marketing efforts, and overall documentation. 

Noteworthy applications include capturing aerial photos of utility locates or hazards around the job site, conducting site inspections in challenging/ dangerous areas, and documenting project progression, including key milestones. It can also be used for onsite material verification, such as removal/ imported quantities. 

The ability to obtain aerial photos before, during, and after a project also adds a valuable marketing dimension. All these opportunities are available to anyone and can be viewed on the computer or within a mobile app. 

As the construction industry continues to embrace technological advancements, drones have become indispensable tools for addressing challenges and improving various aspects of project execution. Their versatility in surveying, mapping, inspection, and monitoring positions them as crucial elements in the construction professional's toolkit. 

With ongoing technological advancements in drone technology, their role in the industry is poised to expand, ushering in a new era of efficiency and innovation in project planning and completion.  

Soon there will be fully automated drone processes without the intervention of a pilot, such as Drone in a Box. This will lead to expanded Site Inspections identifying potential issues and ensuring compliance. Increased safety measures with advanced drone features such as thermal imaging and gas monitoring. 

Drones also pave the way for Autonomous construction tasks such as inspections, small supply delivery, and more. With the advances in artificial intelligence, we are not far away from project optimization and predictive maintenance being made from the data collected by the drone.  

Contact BR to Learn More About Our Services

As a leader in the asphalt industry, Bituminous Roadways, Inc. is continually improving its processes and investigating new technologies. Whether we are reconstructing a major highway or paving a parking lot, we bring a level of expertise that is second to none. See our work here!

As a commercial/industrial paving and underground utility contractor, we provide the following pavement solutions. Contact us today for more information!

  • Highway and city street paving

  • Pothole patching

  • Cracksealing

  • Mill and overlay

  • Pavement Reconstruction

  • Pavement Rehabilitation

  • Grading

  • Sitework/Excavating

  • Concrete work

  • Utility installation/reconstruction

  • Sanitary improvements

  • Storm sewer improvement

  • Wetland/creek restorations

  • Erosion improvements