WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Automation is a fact of life within every industry now, but as technology advances more tasks will be able to be automated, and in the construction industry this is one of the first, major steps to full automation.
Some mining operations are already 100 percent automated, but now some of the same drone technology being used by firms like Rio Tinto are helping spur a similar revolution in the construction industry at sites all around the world as more and more smart machines and fancy 3D printers that are starting to print buildings and cities, and soon even skyscrapers, on demand, continue to assist and replace humans construction workers, and US firm Skycatch, who in the past three years has supplied its quadcopter drones and GIS mapping software to more than 5,000 building sites in Japan run by Komatsu, the world’s second largest building firm, is increasingly at the heart of it all. And by all accounts, mapping the sites is just the beginning, and over time they want their drones to be running the sites.
Originally Komatsu and the company’s other customers were using the drones simply to scan the ground from the sky as diggers worked semi-autonomously below, but now the duo have announced they’re going to be going one step further and that they’re going to use the drones and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to completely automate the construction process and take humans almost, if not entirely, completely out of the loop.
The drones, which at the moment are trained to identify construction equipment, the stage of construction and any potential hazards that are around the site, can already scan sites and create accurate 3D representations of them within just 15 minutes, something that would take a human team days, but eventually Skycatch and Komatsu plan on using them not just to monitor the entire building site but to also control fleets of autonomous vehicles and other drones from the air in “one, amazing symphony.”
“The machines, controlled by the drones, will be able to act on their own, rather than just following pre-programmed rules,” said Angela Sy, Head of AI at Skycatch, “and from their vantage point in the sky the plan is for [the drones] to control the entire site and construction process, from start to finish.”
From the announcement it also seems that it’s inevitable that the new development will threaten jobs, but according to a survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in the UK last year apparently more than 60 per cent of building firms struggle to fill positions so many in the industry are welcoming the move. Add that to the fact that experts also believe that it will help dramatically cut the number of construction site related accidents and it looks like there’s going to be little that anyone will be able to do to hold back the tide of automation. Chalk another one up to the drones, and their huge autonomous machine pals.