A new type of boss is monitoring construction workers in Sacramento, California, the MIT Technology Review reported Wednesday. Managers have begun using drones as a way to track progress being made on the new stadium for the Sacramento Kings.
Several drones automatically patrol the construction site once a day to collect video footage. The footage is converted into a three-dimensional picture of the construction site, and a software program is then used to show managers how the stadium is progressing, alerting management to any parts of the project that might be falling behind schedule.
The drones do not create any privacy issues because they do not fly close enough to individual employees, said Turner construction spokesman Christopher McFadden, CNBC reported. "If we see on the footage our steel project is behind, our reaction is going to be the same as if we were walking the job," said McFadden, CNBC reported. "We'd call our steel contractors, talk through the issues, get back on schedule, and more accurately plan and work for the days and weeks ahead."
As drone technology advances, more and more uses of the unpiloted aircrafts are being implemented every day. Agriculture companies have begun using drones to monitor larger sites, the MIT Technology Review previously reported, and police in North Dakota have been authorized to use drones equipped with tasers, tear gas, rubber bullets and other nonlethal weapons. The University of Illinois is currently testing a new system that will be able to continually monitor construction sites by using drones to attach cameras to locations across a building site.
“It’s not new to the construction industry that there would either be people standing and observing operations, or that there would be fixed cameras,” said Mani Golparvar-Fard, an assistant professor in the department of civil engineering at the University of Illinois, who developed the software with several colleagues, the MIT Technology Review reported. “Yes, making this autonomous has a different feeling for the workers. But you have to keep in mind that it’s not really questioning the efficiency of the workers. It’s questioning what resources these guys need to be more efficient.”
CORRECTION: The drones are flown once a week during off-hours when only a few people are on site, typically on Sunday, according to Chris McFadden, the vice president of communications at Turner Construction Company. “Individual workers or their activities are not being tracked on the project through the use of drones, said McFadden in an e-mail Aug. 31. “They do not fly automatically around the site. They are piloted and follow strict safety protocols such as not flying above people.” He said the drones were used to track the company's progress, not its employees.