There is a $300 Million Cost of Delay With Infrastructure Construction Projects. Can Drones and New Tech Solve It?

Caia Yeung
3 min readNov 5, 2022

A building construction project is a high risk activity which must be managed effectively in all stages. How can organisations ensure that projects finish on time and on budget.

Using LiDAR in transportation planning and engineering

Construction industry has always been viewed as inefficient, with low productivity rates. After the challenges posed by the pandemic, large construction project is taking more than 20% longer than expected to complete and are up to 80% over budget. This results in most construction projects going over budget and over schedule — and it can be very difficult to begin calculating construction schedule delays. Some may claim “that’s construction” and accept the consequences.

According to the Construction Industry Institute’s research, the “average delay caused by a widespread event seems to fall somewhere in the 20 percent to 30 percent range.” Compared to other sectors, construction industry has been slow in embracing new digital technologies.

And this could be the right timing in the adoption of drone technology.

Before Covid-19, the industry sector saw a 239% increase in the adoption of drone technology. Now, more than ever, companies must focus on resiliency as a core strategy to navigate highly uncertain futures. The digital transformation will provide an unparalleled record of all activities, including; cuts planning and survey costs, increases efficiency and accuracy etc…

To say that Covid-19 has brought immense change across all industries is an understatement. Even construction, an industry that has traditionally been slow to change, has also needed to quickly innovate and implement digital solutions to adapt to the challenges posed by the pandemic. Transitioning to digitalisation and deploying drone technologies are a prerequisite to navigate competitive industry. Companies that fail to invest in digitisation may eventually find themselves unable to cope with future uncertainty such as those caused by the pandemic.

There are new emerging technologies such as Skydio, Airobotics and DroneDeploy — drones can reduce some of the delay problems. Drones can fly the entire construction site continuously and autonomously, mapping 3D space and uploading the visual data to BIM platforms — building information modelling systems — to ensure that everything stays on track and documenting the evolving job site in near real time.

Previous to this, if you wanted to go see the status of a construction site, you would have to go walk the site, snapping pictures with a camera. Then you will have a ton of digital pictures to review and loading up to the management software. This manual process is very time consuming. So, digitising a representation of the physical environment is the goal. The basic idea of implementing drone technology will streamline that process that would take you all day to capture from traditional methods. Deploying drone technologies will both increasing the accuracy, the speed with which you can operate, and able to actually run these sorts of data analysis digitally that you weren’t able to even do before.

In other words, drone technology and moving towards digitalisation will allow you to have automated data collection, data input, and you can run automated comparisons day over day to see the progress has been made and if there is anything concerning you should take a look in person. This will definitely save some time for construction companies and money in less re-work and remediation.

There’s also a massive push to build robots that can help in some of the most dangerous and difficult tasks in construction — while helping solve the construction labor and skills shortage. Drones will help with the digital nature of construction. The solution isn’t cheap though. While a lot of industrial drone technology companies are not releasing pricing information publicly, it definitely won’t fit on my credit card.

At the end of the day, we can’t solve all the problems for those companies that have integrated digital transformation; they will also need to continuing digital efforts to always re-examine and adjust their digital implementations to ensure their business model aligns with company objectives.

It is not a question whether deploying drone technology will be a successful to the construction industry; it inevitably will. The real question is, how will organisations establish resilience for an uncertain future?