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Drones and Estimating Software

Can software and drones ease construction costs?

Drone Deploy Aug18 2

The green movement is here to stay, especially on the West Coast. At the end of 2017, solar power accounted for nearly 16 percent of total electricity in California. And, the industry is poised to grow more than three times over the next decade—new laws mandate that 50 percent of the state's electricity must come from renewable energy sources by 2030.

Recently, the California Energy Commission approved a proposal to make California the first in the U.S. to require solar panels on almost all new homes beginning in 2020. This new rule will further California's progressive environmental goals, but first, it will require construction companies to adapt to meet these new standards. New advancements in software and drones are helping companies meet these standards.

While solar panel manufacturers are welcoming this announcement, some contractors might be concerned about the impact this law will have on their bottom line. Companies shouldn’t write this off as bad news just yet. This will undoubtedly add some costs to their projects, but there is a silver lining: this is a perfect opportunity to kick off drone initiatives. Why? Drones improve site safety and can help offset the extra costs of the new regulations.

Automate Roof Measurement and Analysis

Drones powered by 3-D mapping software like San Francisco-based DroneDeploy can reduce the design cycle of solar energy projects by as much as 70 percent, and increase team productivity along the way.

Surveying a roof usually requires companies to send out surveyors to gather manual tape measurements, meaning they have to clamber across rooftops for about two to three hours. Drones capture measurements from the safety of the ground. Capable of flying extremely close to any site, drones deliver precise measurements consistently and allow surveyors to generate accurate 3-D models of every site for further inspection.

After the drone finishes its flight, which typically takes 15 minutes, surveyors can review all measurements from their desks before producing reports, and export the data into design software.

Keep Projects on Track

Most construction projects finish behind schedule and over budget. But drones are closing the gap. Daily site documentation helps managers monitor progress and manage subcontractors. Drone maps can be used to identify design deviations and get operations back on track. The real-time photo delivery capabilities of drones not only speed up this process, but often cut weeks off of a project timeline.

After completing aerial photo flights, surveyors produce progress reports quickly and deliver up-to-date, digestible visual data. These reports can then be sent directly to headquarters, keeping stakeholders up-to-speed on the progress of a project. By more effectively addressing site conditions during meetings, design changes can be implemented immediately, instead of days later.

California has the opportunity to lead the way in drone adoption. Already the nation's leader in installed solar capacity, California is set the take another massive step forward in decreasing its carbon footprint. However, no matter how you cut it, installing solar panels on the majority of single-family and multi-family buildings will be a challenging undertaking for construction pros. While it won’t be easy, adopting the latest drone technology can help, all while increasing productivity and safety on the job site.

Mike Winn is CEO and cofounder of DroneDeploy, San Francisco, a manufacturer of drone-mapping software with a large drone data platform. To learn more, visit