Drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs) are being used more and more for a range of purposes, from surveying and mapping, to delivering Amazon parcels to remote communities. For architects, there are many exciting possibilities. Drones offer immense potential for capturing images and data about a building or site. They also offer us a new point of perspective and the ability to save the time otherwise needed to send in a team of surveyors to navigate complex terrain.
Capturing data and optimising design
Drones have become an incredibly useful surveying tool. They are small and generally easy to manoeuvre, making it easy to access parts of a site that might otherwise be unsafe/challenging to access on foot. A drone can be used to provide close-up footage of any potentially unsafe structures, sent back to the architect in real time during the flight.
Drones can also assist with mapping work. Although it is very common to use satellite imagery for site planning, the quality of the images can often be too low and not yield enough data to work with. Images and data collected from drone flights are generally very high quality and can be used to create accurate 3D models of the site in familiar software programs.
Flying safely and legally
It is the responsibility of drone owners to fly their drone safely and within the law. This includes keeping the drone in sight and below 400ft and not flying too close to airports, over congested areas or within 50m of a person. It is also important to ensure that any images obtained by the drone do not break privacy laws. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has created a ‘Drone Code’ which sets out the rules for all drone users.
Using a drone in the UK for commercial purposes requires permission from the CAA. Commercial drone users are required to attend an accredited course that will ensure they can operate a drone safely.
At RISE, we are always eager to implement the latest technologies and to better our practice with the tools that are available to us. We have used drones in the past in order to gain better visual access to difficult sites, especially in larger projects, and for photographing completed work from the unique angle only drones can offer.
Showcasing work and looking to the future
Not only is a drone immensely helpful in the design stage, it can also be a real asset when showcasing completed projects. Drones can carry very powerful cameras which can take footage of the completed work and how it fits into its surroundings. The footage can be used to compile engaging and impressive photography and films of the architect’s work.
Looking forwards, drones are likely to be here to stay and there are many exciting opportunities for architects who use them. There are examples of drones being used to carry materials into sites (light materials, at this stage), and using heat-sensing/infrared technology to monitor the real-time effects of a project on the surrounding environment. Some architects even dream of using drones to build a building, but this is perhaps a while away yet!