Drones—also called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or unmanned aerial systems (UAS)—are most simply described as flying devices that do not carry a human pilot. They can be remotely piloted or they can pilot themselves based on pre-programmed instructions. They can be equipped with GPS, on board computers, hardware, electronics, sensors, stabilizers, auto-pilots, servo controllers, and any other equipment the user desires to install. Drones can resemble fixed-wing airplanes but more commonly take the form of quad-copters, that is, rotor-wing aircraft that can take off and land vertically. Most people know that drones can be equipped with infra-red cameras (still and video), license-plate readers, “ladar” (laser radar that generate three-dimensional images and can be seen through trees and foliage), thermal-imaging devices, or even sensors that gather data about weather, temperature, radiation or other environmental conditions. All of this can be used to generate images, recordings or data that design professionals eventually will want to use in their business.
Drones could be a valuable tool in construction, widening the spectrum of what’s possible in architecture, according to architect Ammar Mirjan.
“We can fly [drones] through and around existing objects, which a person couldn’t do or a crane couldn’t do,” explains Mirjan. They can be programmed to weave simple tensile structures in the air, for example.
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How are aerial mapping drones helping architects?
Architects are exploring the many benefits of mapping drones for improving and expanding their businesses. Here are just a few examples:
The most popular application for small drones is aerial photography and video capture to track and share “before and after” progress over time.
Ability to securely collaborate on specific areas of interest with your team, contractors, and customers.
Tell the story of your project. Show current and potential customers before and after fly-throughs of your job site so they can experience and appreciate the scale and impact of your work.
3-D point clouds with centimeter grade accuracy on progress, so you can get the precision updates you need to keep project approvals on time, without physically traveling to the site.
Get context for your project, plan your architecture with a full view of the surrounding area.
See 3D volumetrics so you know what you’re building on and can track progress.
Uses for Drones
- Project documentation
- Presentation + marketing
- Architectural cinematography
- Site analysis
- Topographic mapping
- Construction observation
- Educational tool
- Lead generation (working with Realtors)
According to an interview in Dezeen.com with Mark Dytham, architect and co-founder of Tokyo-based Klein Dytham Architecture, “Drones will transform the way buildings are designed, the way they look and the way they are used.
One way in which drones are proving to be a useful tool in architecture is through surveying. Due to their small size and relative ease of maneuverability, drones make an easy task of accessing difficult to reach places.
According to ArchDaily.com, “While using satellite imagery for site planning is common among architects, these visuals are often available in low resolution and produce less accurate data. Data collected by drones can completely eliminate the need for hiring land surveyors for creating topographic surveys. Instead, architects can use this information to build accurate 3D models of the terrain and site and import them directly into drafting and modeling software like Rhino.” In the past, architects would have relied on planes, helicopters, or satellite imaging for aerial footage.
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