DJI Phantom 4 V2.0
Drones are transforming construction workflows throughout the built world. The real-time insights provided by aerial technology offer significant advantage when it comes to completing projects on time and under budget.
For the second year running, we’ve compiled a buying guide of the best drones for the built-world.
Our analysis reflects the ever-changing landscape of aerial technology, and even includes an overview of drone insurance policies and providers.
Whether just getting started or updating an existing fleet, our guide offers straightforward advice for buying your first drone, a list of common mistakes to avoid, and in-depth reviews of 2020’s top products.
DJI Phantom 4 V2.0
DJI Mavic 2 Pro
DJI Mavic Pro Platinum
ZeroZero V-Cptr Falcon
DJI Inspire 2
DJI Matrice 600
If you want to go straight to the full reviews for each drone, jump ahead to the section on top drones for the construction industry.
You might be tempted to dive right into comparing specific drones, but try to resist. First, you should determine your needs and choose the appropriate software. We'll say it again - pick your software before even looking at hardware.
Software is how you'll manage your drone data, which is the most valuable aspect of drone ownership. More than that, the software you use will affect your drone choice, so you'll need to have it picked out before you begin drone shopping.
Before diving into software, first decide what you need the drone for and how you intend to use your data.
The first step to purchasing your drone is determining how you’re going to use it. To get a better understanding of what you want to do with your drone, ask yourself the following questions:
Answering this question determines how you’re going to get value from your drone and what kind of software you’ll need to purchase. Having a plan for data use will not only help you find the right drone, but also save time and money when operations are underway.
Flight frequency affects both hardware and insurance plan you'll need. If you plan to fly daily (or even weekly), consider ease-of-use and make sure you have the right coverage option.
Your drone can do a lot more than just take site surveys. They can also take gorgeous videos for marketing purposes and stakeholder updates.
Considering your imaging needs further clarifies your hardware requirements. Different drones excel at collecting different kinds of visual data, so be sure you have the right functionality.
Wind and rain are your two biggest enemies when trying to fly, but not for the reasons you might think. Most modern drones can remain stable in strong wind gusts, but low light and standing water can make it difficult to capture and stitch clear, accurate images.
Putting your data to work is all about choosing the right software.
After all, a gorgeous site survey is only useful if you can edit and share the information. The same is true of cinematic videos shot in 4k. Yet, these two cases require different software. So what’s the best software for you?
There are several types of drone software, each involved in a different process. We provide breakdowns of the use cases below.
Data management is where the real value of your drone will be realized. It should be easy to visualize, analyze, and share information from a single platform. Our software does just that. Of course, we're a little biased, but we do recommend you explore your options, as this is a critical choice.
Operating your drone on a computer controlled, pre-programmed flight path is the easiest way to achieve consistent quality. Many drones offer on-deck flight programming, but these options allow even more control.
Airspace apps help you monitor weather, no-fly zones, and flight logs. They are most helpful for flying in frequently changing conditions and locations, or those who must fly close to airports.
3D Models provide an accurate way to measure almost anything. With drones, scaling large objects in three-dimensions has never been easier.
Once you've picked your software, it's time to move onto hardware.
Drones are loaded with gadgets and there are several important factors to consider when choosing what's right for you. You might be asking: What's the best drone camera? Is collision detection worth it?
We'll answer those questions and more below, covering cameras, collision detection, ease-of-use, and overall stability.
Camera quality and gimbal mount are defining factors of drone performance. If precise imaging or aerial cinematics are your priorities, don’t skip on a 3-axis gimbal. A higher quality camera with more stability will pay-off.
Drones have two types of payload: modular and fixed. Modular drones have interchangeable parts, meaning you can swap the camera and rotor blades. While this is a big advantage in specific cases, fixed payloads are simpler, cheaper, and require less specialization.
Communication loss is inevitable when remote controlling a drone, making recovery flight mode and collision detection invaluable.
Cutting edge radio cameras, like on the Zero Zero V-Coptr Falcon, maintain 360 degree obstacle avoidance anytime the drone is airborne.
Is it easy to get your drone out of the box and into the air? How easily you can get your drone flying will make a difference in how quickly you can capture data, and how much time your employees spend learning to fly.
This is one major advantage of having a fixed payload. You won't need equipment lists or tooling specifications, making it easier to get to work.
Flying a construction drone means you don’t have much choice about the timing and conditions in which you fly. You have to get your images and you have to get them regularly. Your drone has to be able to stand up to adverse weather and the occasional collision.
Like any other vehicle, you'll want insurance when flying drones. There are three kinds of coverage: Liability, Hull, and Payload Insurance.
For commercial needs, you'll want a policy that includes all three. Because you need protection against theft, we recommend annual plans over "on-demand" coverage that charges per flight hour. Now how much should you spend, and what limits do you need?
Insures against damage to power lines, structures, and people.
Covers your hardware & payload against accidental damages.
Pay-per-flight coverage, perfect for one-time operations.
Cutting edge drone technology is more affordable than ever. With a price spectrum ranging from $40 - $40,000, it's useful to have an overview of market prices.
There are a few cautions to keep in mind when purchasing a construction drone:
That should cover everything you need to get started. If you're interested in more information, be sure to check out our piece on How to Get Started with Drones in Construction.
If you have any other questions, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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