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The Safety Brief In our podcasts we give short but valuable overviews
and insights into how contractors and safety managers
can be even more effective in protecting their workers.
In our podcasts we give short but valuable overviews and insights into how contractors and safety managers can be even more effective in protecting their workers.

Drones In Construction? 6 Tips To Consider

Drones in construction can save time surveying and inspecting sites. But contractors should think about drone costs, FAA registration, insurance and more.

Drones_In_Construction-6_Tips_To_Consider-Creative_Safety_Supply-250x167Hear about six big things to consider before you put down good money for a drone. The biggest issue is the FAA permit, as they are backlogged with applications. Other than the initial equipment cost, a contractor must factor in the need for a qualified operator and training, plus liability and safety issues.

In this podcast, Dan Clark explains this new frontier in worksite technology. The transcript offers abundant links to credible information to help make an informed decision about drones in construction.


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Dan Clark: Thinking about buying a drone for a construction site? Before you spend the tall dollars, let’s fly through six important tips.

Hi, I’m Dan Clark with The Safety Brief. We take on health and safety hazards in today’s demanding industrial and construction worksites, a service of Creative Safety Supply.

Drones, also known as UASs — unmanned aircraft systems, have become hyper-popular and hyper-unsafe with hobbyists. They’re storming into the workplace too. As of now, November, 2015, the FAA has issued nearly 2200 commercial permits. At the start of the year they had granted only a dozen.

Because of safety issues, the FAA just announced that even hobbyist drones will need to be registered. They’re currently devising a system to do just that.

Drones_In_Construction-6_Tips_To_Consider-Creative_Safety_Supply-350x250But let’s look at the construction setting. Drones can be super efficient reducing the time required for site assessment. 3-D mapping excavations, tall structure inspection and photographing site layouts all take a fraction of the traditional technology time.

Pushing the tech envelope is Japanese self-driving construction equipment maker Komatsu. Partnered with American drone maker Skycatch, drones snap aerial pictures of construction sites. They’re then stitched together to make 3-D maps. Project managers decide what Earth needs to be moved and then send unmanned equipment to do the work. This is according to a fascinating report in Popular Science.

So, let’s get down to it. Drones can be a big benefit but there are expenses, staffing, liability and safety issues to think about. Consider these six tips:

1. DRONES NEED REGISTRATION. For commercial use there are two ways to get FAA authorization:

— A Section 333 Exemption, or
— A Special Airworthiness Certificate (SAC).

2. THERE ARE NO-DRONE ZONES. Operators must not fly within 5 miles of an airport unless they have the air traffic control tower’s permission. Stadiums and other public places, including some entire cities, are also off limits. They must fly within the eyesight of the pilot, at less than 100 miles an hour and only during daylight hours. The UAS must stay below 500 feet, though some permits have a 200 foot max.

3. DRONES NEED A QUALIFIED OPERATOR. The pilot must be at least 17, pass an aeronautics test and be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration, the TSA.

4. DRONES NEED LIABILITY INSURANCE. What if there’s a crash? It won’t be covered by your CGL — the commercial general liability policy you have. You’ll need a rider.

5. DRONES MUST HAVE A FLIGHT PLAN. To notify local pilots that your drone will be sneaking into national airspace, file with Flight Service.

6. DRONES ARE NOT CHEAP. Starting at hundreds of dollars, extending the thousands, they are not toys. Don’t scrimp on the controller or charger either.

So, that’s a lot to think about. Now what? Will you buy one or will you hire out to a subcontractor? Don’t forget: There are fewer than 2200 commercial drone operators in the U.S., so good luck finding one.

That’s all for this episode, Drones in Construction? 6 Tips To Consider. Join me again for more ways to stay safety compliant in today’s always-changing landscape of safety requirements. I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief, a service of Creative Safety Supply. Save 10 percent off your entire order at with coupon code BIG10.


More information is available here and here through the Federal Aviation Administration.

White drone image © 2015 Pixabay / succo; crane public domain image 2013 by U.S. Army Corps. Of Engineers / Todd Plain; No-Drone-Zone image by FAA / U.S. Department Of Transportation; black drone image © 2015 Pixabay / flyingbikie; demolition image 2008 by U.S. Dept of Energy

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