The future of Drones in construction – surveys

Drone survey
Drone survey – Drone Scotland, January 2022

Drone Surveys, Aerial surveys, UAS surveys or UAV surveys? Whatever terminology you use, it’s fair to say the use of drones in construction is growing fast. 8 years ago drones were deployed for pretty pictures and videos. In 2022 Drones are supplying integral data to the sector at each stage of the project. These including data collection, topographic surveying and 3d models. In this blog we explore some of the applications of drones in construction in 2022.

From pretty pictures to UAV survey-grade data

We’ve been supplying uav data to the construction sector for over 5 years. This might not sound like a long time however 5 years makes us one of the earlier drone pioneers. In 2017 we delivered construction progress reports from drone photographs and video. In our very first construction project we supplied time lapse construction progress images. Whilst it felt groundbreaking at the time, fast forward 5 years and we’re delivering highly accurate survey grade data used throughout the lifecycle of a project.

Utilising a combination of drone technology, ground control points, RTK technology and software, we are now able to supply highly accurate survey grade data and mapping solutions. We capture high resolution data from UAV surveys that feeds into surveying workflows.

We’ve flown over a 1000 flights across construction sites and housing developments. Within construction our services are utilised from site concept through to completion.

Evolving drone technology

DJI M300 with Zenmuse H20 camera for Drone Survey
DJI M300 flight – Drone Scotland, November 2021

At the forefront of an evolving industry is of course evolving technology. Drones and drone survey software are evolving at a fast pace. In 2022 we invested over 50% of our profit back into technology. The drones we deployed in 2017 are no longer fit for purpose.

There is a huge difference between drone photography and delivering highly accurate aerial survey grade data. Continual investments in technology and software are inevitable. The DJI Phantom 4 could be sufficient for capturing photographs of a construction site. This drone is however unable to deliver survey grade data good enough for a topographical survey. That’s why in 2021 we invested in the DJI M300 RTK drone and Zenmuse H20 and Zenmuse P1 cameras. This helped drive efficiencies and accuracy to deliver highly accurate high quality aerial survey grade data and inspections to our customers.

Benefits of Drones in construction

Construction drone inspection - photogrammetry
UAV survey using FPV goggles – allowing the end user to watch a live flight

The introduction of drones to the UK construction site has been citied as one of the top 4 tech trends to transform construction. According to PWC (Skies without limits report, 2018) “Tangible benefits of drone use compared to traditional methods include:-

  • Increased efficiency – A drone site survey can be up to 400 times faster
  • Lower costs – savings of c 40%
  • Survey grade accuracy – comparable to traditional labour-intensive land surveying, accuracy is typically 3cm horizontally, and vertically, with a pixel in an orthomosaic map representing 3cm in real life
  • Enhanced data set – improved photographic visualisation in 2D and 3D

Drone Services – Construction

With 80% of construction firms planning to use drones in the future, let’s have a detailed look into what services we currently provide to the construction sector.

  • Topographical surveys including elevations, contour mapping, digital surface models, digital terrain models and point clouds
  • 2d orthomosaic mapping services
  • 3d mesh models
  • Time-lapse imagery
  • Condition inspections
  • Bridge inspections
  • Completion videos
  • Energy infratsructure surveys

So how does this fit into a project lifecycle? At Drone Scotland we provide highly accurate aerial survey grade data from concept to completion. This includes the land buying stage through to site completion and infrastructure handover. We also support planning, site design and redesign, conflict management, security, health and safety, communication, asset management, earthworks strategies, boundary management and ecology, environmental considerations, and financial projections.

Drone software

To deliver highly accurate data there is a need for effective software to support the data sharing and organising. At Drone Scotland we’ve invested in several programmes to support our data capture. We often utilise more than one in any given project. 5 years ago, there were limited software options to support our business. In 2022 there are several software houses developing software to support the drone industry. The programmes we deploy for Inspection services are different to those we use for UAV surveys. The software is becoming more sophisticated and this means the product we deliver for the end user is adding more and more value.

Drone Legislation

Drone Scotland undertaking a high risk flight next to Glasgow Airport. This flight would fall under the Specific category and therefore permissions obtained from National Air Traffic Control because we have an Operational Authorisation from the CAA
Drone Scotland undertaking an Aerial survey next to Glasgow Airport. January 2022

The laws surrounding the drone industry are evolving with the industry. The law changed on 31st December 2021 and this affects who can fly what, where and at what distances legally. Details can be found on the CAA website.

One of the biggest changes (in our opinion) is that any high-risk flights can only be undertaken by a pilot with an Operational Authorisation. High risk flights will fall into the “Specific” category. Flying over a construction site would be considered a high risk flight. Check your Drone supplier has an Operational Authorisation from the CAA. Always ask to see a copy of their license and Insurance documents. Drone Scotland hold an Operational Authorisation from the CAA which allows us to fly commercially. We hold £5m public liability insurance.

The future

PWC predict there will be 76,233 drones flying in the UK by 2030. It’s estimated there will be gross cost savings in the construction sector from drone uptake which will equate to £3.5b. PWC (Skies without limits report, 2018)

The construction sector will ultimately benefit from the integration of drones. As the industry continues to evolve, we believe automation will begin to play a major role in the industry. Covid-19 accelerated the deploying of drones to gather data in instances where Project Managers were unable to travel to sites. The ability to gather data remotely is one which a number of our clients at Drone Scotland benefited from. As drones, technology and software become more sophisticated this is a service that could become automated in the future. Imagine a world where site managers can fly through their sites without having to leave their office? The ability to Zoom in to details on a site. We also anticipate developments of integrated software that link with inhouse architectural software, streamlining efficiencies within the industry. This development is inevitable if the construction industry are to benefit from the full efficiencies of drones.

Whatever products and services emerge in the future it’s clear Drones in construction are here to stay and will continue to evolve and add value to the build.

Further information on Drone Scotland Construction services contact our team at or

Drone Scotland Construction – 0141 302 4685