Drones provide construction teams with the ability to measure materials, site progression, permanent installation and materials auditing. 2021 offers new solutions against robust power-house drones for construction crews across the United States.
The best drones for construction in 2021 might be different from what you have flown before. As construction companies have evolved in how these mobile aerial platforms solve problems across sites. As construction crews ramp up across America this spring, construction crews will find a variety of new drones to solve problems. Often times drones are used in construction for a simple eye-in-the-sky view. Simple progression photos from various corners of the site provide information not seen, traditionally, by the human eye.
As drones mature across construction sites, the uses for these aerial platforms continues to expand. Project managers are using drones to fly through sites, take 360 photos and even use orthomosaics for simple site-wide progression. 2021 has already hyped many new drones, most of which aren’t suitable for drone mapping.
Overall Performance: DJI’s Phantom 4 Pro Version 2.0
High End Performance: DJI’s Inspire 2 with X7 camera
American Made: Freefly’s Astro Drone
Large Scale | Enterprise Grade: Wingtra One Drone
Interior Fly Throughs: Mini 2
DJI’s Phantom 4 Pro drone has been and remains the powerhouse mapping drone for construction. The Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 offers a wide variety of 3rd party apps that can control the drone for construction mapping and modeling. These same applications allow pilots to set and save waypoints. Allowing drone pilots to fly pre-planned missions that snap progression photos from the same exact position over time.
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The Phantom drone is one of the rare drones that offers a mechanical shutter for faster acquisition of photos for mapping. The Phantom has a large 1″ sensor that is reliable and offers great color depth and detail. Pair all of these features with the Phantoms ease of use, and no other drone has ever come close to matching the Phantom’s offering. Drone pilots love the simplicity of the Phantom, which has less complexity and can therefore make it much easier to ensure routine and reliable flights. The Phantom is hands down, the very best drone for construction in 2021 and, most likely, for years to come.
Drone programs love the Phantom drone as managers can literally watch flights in real time through applications like Measure. The Phantoms, along with great training, can make the lives of program managers much easier. Even better news for veteran drone pilots is DJI has re-initiated production of the Phantom 4 Advanced drone, which is the most valuable drone for the money…. If you map and model in addition to using your drone for capturing images and video.
As more companies look to digitize their environments, many drone pilots are turning to the Inspire 2 with the X7 camera. At a much cheaper cost than an M300, the Inspire 2 offers increased safety features and flexibility. Are your construction sites in cold environments that face windy conditions? Chances are you’ll love the Inspire 2’s dual self-heating batteries. The Inspire 2 also offers high altitude props to help those mountain towns build up their new ski-lifts. The real power of the Inspire 2 comes with the addition of the X7 camera. The X7 camera allows pilots to take extremely high quality imagery with various lenses.
2021 means construction companies are using drones for more than just photos. Which is why the list of the best drones in construction had to include the Inspire 2 X7. Construction companies are often creating life-like 3D models of a site. Whether the company wants to earn a bid by animating these 3D models, or create a historical 3D record of the site pre-construction…the Inspire 2 X7 offers the most flexibility to get the job done. Simply put, the larger (all-in-one) camera paired with more robust airframe = taking flight on more days of the year.
Many construction sites are now operating in sensitive areas, forcing pilots to fly American made aircraft. While we haven’t tested the Freefly Astro, we have seen the aircraft run autonomous missions. The Astro drone sports a Sony A7R4 camera shooting 60mp photos. This particular setup can offer extreme value to construction companies. This larger sensor means the drone will have a much shorter flight time to complete any autonomous mission. The larger camera also means pilots can fly much higher than normal to acquire the same resolution or Ground Sampling Distance. (Want to learn more about drone mapping: see this guide.)
Pilots will need to consider that applications to control the Astro will be limited. And again, without direct hands on experience we cannot speak to the reliability of the aircraft or the flight characteristics. Albeit, of all the American drones, the Freefly Astro is our current favorite. Though we are excited to get our hands on the Sony Airpeak when it hits American markets.
For serious construction companies needing to map large sites or long roads, look no further than the Wingtra One drone. Hands down the most capable fixed wing drone offered to drone pilots. While this drone may be vastly different from the multi rotor drones you’ve seen, it is much more capable. The Wingtra drone is one of the few fixed wing aircraft that has reliable vertical take off and landing (VTOL) capability. This VTOL feature ensures that the drone can take off and land in urban environments or near tall trees. Unlike the Ebee X which needs a large area for takeoff, the Wingtra elegantly rotates her wings to transfer from vertical flight to horizontal. Frankly, it is almost like viewing a work of art for the first time.
Besides the complex flight features, the Wingtra has proven to be a practical solution for construction and engineering companies world wide. The bird has seen continued success abroad and fast implementation domestically. For any construction site looking to map vast swaths of land, look no further than the Wingtra One Drone. The Wingtra drone is by far the best large-scale mapping drone for construction.
The last drone on our list may surprise you. As many of our clients are using drones in new ways in construction, one of the best construction related drones now includes the Mini 2 drone. While pilots will not be using the Mini 2 to map or model construction sites, they might use it to fly through the construction site. That’s right, some project managers are using the Mini 2 to simply fly through an interior to check progress or identify potential safety hazards. While the Mini 2 offers very limited functionality, with such a cheap price point…the drone is easy to replace. In fact, one recent construction engineer told me he believes the Mini 2 drone is the next disposable camera. It just happens to fly.
Over the years of teaching drone pilots mapping and modeling, the Toyota of drones (in construction) has been and will remain the Phantom 4 Pro. Until you have to map extreme large sites across various environments, you’ll end up skipping most enterprise solutions and going right to Wingtra. That is, if you like mitigating headaches on site. Wondering what those blue and orange pads are… Landing pads to protect your drone!
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