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How Drone Technology is Transforming the Design Process

Drones are no longer simply figments of science fiction writers’ imaginations. Today, drones (also known as Unmanned Aircraft Systems or UAS) are increasingly deployed for practical uses like package deliveries, accessing disaster zones, aerial photography and more. Architects are using drones in innovative ways that provide better visualizations throughout the design and construction process for their clients and design teams. Design teams can integrate images captured by drones with 3D modelling software and VR technology to provide dynamic visuals that can guide clients and architects throughout the decision and implementation processes of large projects.

Emerging drone technology

These integrated technologies not only cut costs compared to earlier imaging capture and visualization systems but, by employing drones, architects and designers can deliver a holistic representation of the built and unbuilt environment as projects are developed. Architects have made use of satellite imaging for some time, but satellite technology tends to deliver lower quality images and provides less precise data. At the same time, manual on-site surveys and site scans are labour intensive and time-consuming, while difficult terrain and construction site conditions can often be unsafe.

Drone technology coupled with innovative software allows teams to survey, inspect and scan projects or sites quickly and safely. During the construction process, repeat drone flight image captures can allow frequent updates to be digitally transferred via the cloud to the architect and other project collaborators. What used to be a time-consuming and expensive process can now be generated in almost real-time.

Today, drones can help produce initial surveys, accurate site condition assessments, and logistics assisting the design and construction teams to provide timely progress reports. Drones also allow architects to monitor the progress of the building structure, and to access upper elevations safely. The visualizations produced during the planning and construction stages can then be redeployed by marketing departments that can readily use drone-gathered material in promotion and sales, using dynamic images like fly-throughs and aerial photographs of the project.

Drones and the future of design

While drones are changing how design teams collaborate and offer improved visualization possibilities, site assessments and progress monitoring, they’ve also opened the door for innovation in design delivery. Building Information Modeling (BIM) software, coupled with 3D imaging and ever-evolving AI could transform the entire design workflow of the future. These technologies will affect how we perceive the structures themselves. Rather than understanding buildings from the ground up, designers of the future will be able to help clients visualize design possibilities from a vertical dimension. Drone technologies will also be able to capture data on environmental impacts on project sites and inform appropriate land use and building protocols. Through drone technology, design of the future may well extend beyond the built environment, allowing architects to ensure they’re delivering environmentally sustainable projects.

Drones will likely create a need for design teams to add technologists, software specialists and other digital experts in order for architects to meet to integrate all of the technical requirements of project delivery in the future.  Building design itself may be also be transformed as space planning will become a more extensive exercise to allow for systems dedicated to drone usage, all built with the aid of drone technology.

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