Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, or drones as they are commonly called, have been proven to have a wide range of applications that stray from their currently more conventional uses in the military. New applications have been found in the fields of medicine, agriculture, delivery and of course for those who work on constructions.
We present how drones, to date, have been used to assist those working in building design, construction and real estate.
1. Surveying and Restoration
Since drones are relatively small, they can house cameras and be operated remotely, they can be used to visually survey buildings in areas that are difficult to reach or pose a health and safety risk for a human to enter.
Back in June 2014, an abandoned house in Camden, New Jersey in the United States was surveyed using the architects’ own drone .
2. Architectural Visualisation
Most of you reading this will know that architectural visualisations, or architectural rendering, of a building project are critical to enable others to see the attributes of a proposed design. Drones fitted with cameras can be used to obtain real aerial images of the project location, so that architectural visualisation can be integrated.
This technique has recently been used to create images of a mixed-use building, located on a corner plot in the centre of Perth in Australia .
3. Showcasing a Built Design
English architect Norman Foster, whose portfolio includes the iconic 30 St Mary Axe (The Gherkin) building, in London, has recently narrated an internal drone tour of another of his designs: the Hearst Tower in New York.
After receiving the permission, a drone fitted with professional quality cameras was flown inside the building to capture the internal space 10 years on.
The below video was published by the Hearst Corporation.
4. Flight Assembled Architecture
Just imagine if there was a type of drone that could carry and place building materials, such as bricks, to create an architectural structure. Well, that sight may be fairly far off but the concept has already been experimented with.
In France in 2011 – 2012, quadcopter drones built a 1:100 scale model of an architectural vision, without human interaction. The project, called “Flight Assembled Architecture”, was brought about through collaboration between roboticist Raffaello D’Andrea, Swiss architects Gramazio & Kohler and the Federal Institute of Technology Zurich
The quadcopters took several days to correctly placed 1,500 polystyrene foam “bricks” to create a tower that was 6m high and 3.5m in diameter .
The video below was published on vimeo 3 years ago by Raffaello D’Andrea
Flight Assembled Architecture from Raffaello D’Andrea on Vimeo.
5. Aerial photography and video
Drones have already started to be used by those in real estate to capture attractive images of the homes and buildings that they are trying to sell. There is also the very real possibility that videos will also start being used as well.
All of these uses of drones are constrained by commercial drone regulation, policy and licensing. Before using a drone for commercial purposes it is vital to check that you have correct authorisation to do so from all the necessary stakeholders.
This list of uses is by no means exhaustive. It just highlights some of the exciting possibilities for drones to enhance our society in the future.
Are there any other uses of drones in the building design, construction and real estate sectors that have been missed? Let us know by commenting below.
 Drone Helps Architects Restore Historic Building, Here & Now Network, Emma Jacobs of WHYY. (Last accessed 19/02/2015)
 Architectural visualization of a building in Perth, Australia, Berga & Gonzalez Architects. (Last Accessed 19/02/2015)
 Flight Assembled Architecture by Raffaello D’Andrea. (Last Accessed 19/02/2015).
My name is Dries Hensley and I am based in Roodepoort, Gauteng, South Africa. I have my own architectural concern.
I want to expand my business in designing new structures like dwellings, dams, staff quarters etc to the rural/ farmlike industry. I also want to draw existing structures on farms and want to implement a DRONE for this purpose.
My question is if it would be possible to pinpoint a position ie a borehole by means of a GPS coordinate as well as the GPS coordinate of the farmhouse. Then I want to calculate the distance between these two coordinates. Is it possible ?
This will save me a lot of time and effort than to physically measure up this vast distances.
Building surveyors will know that most building surveys require visibility of the buildings roof to identify its condition and assess any defects. In most instances getting access to a roof can be difficult and can involve the erection of a scaffold, use of a cherry picker or ladders. Using a small drone to perform the survey can save time, money and reduce health and safety risks.