Drones and construction safety: UF researchers study potential advantages and pitfalls

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Students are-using drones in Gheisari's technology application in construction course

University of Florida (UF) researchers are studying the potential applications of drones in construction safety, but have discovered the potential advantages also have some serious consequences that need to be studied further.

A UF News report describes the work of Masoud Gheisari, who leads a human-computer interaction lab at the university’s College of Design, Construction and Planning.

On construction sites, “new dangers arise throughout the day as equipment, people and materials move around the site,” the published story says.

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UF researchers are exploring the potential for drones in construction safety (UF News image)

“When I saw these new gadgets that can fly and provide real-time video to an iPhone or iPad, I thought it might be a useful tool for construction, especially for construction safety,” Gheisari said.

Drones are currently widely used in civil and transportation engineering, and to inspect facades or monitor a project’s progress. That will likely change as loosened regulations, lower costs and easier operation make unmanned aerial vehicles viable for widespread use, he says.

Drones could be most effective for safety next to edges and openings, around booms and cranes and in blind spots near heavy equipment. Gheisari and University of Nebraska engineering professor Behzad Esmaeili have identified through interviews and surveys as these as the three areas with safety potential.

However, construction professionals have raised concerns ranging from liability to privacy – topics of future studies for Gheisari and his colleagues.

“It’s not just the technological implications we need to look into, but the social, legal and financial factors as well,” he said.

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