This is a short history of drone technology and an introduction to its applications in the field of construction.
- Drones. Now, for many of you, this may conjure up images of Skynet and Terminator and robots rising out of the molten metal and coming to kill you. But the reality is the future looks a lot more like Wall-E than Terminator. Look, I'm here to give you a basic overview of how these things right here, these drones, apply to our incredible industry of construction. Now, we really should be using the phrase UAV, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.
That's also another phrase, UAS, Unmanned Aerial Systems. You'll see a bunch of these used interchangeably, but the military has been using the phrase of drone for a long time. When they say drone, they typically mean fixed-wing predators that carry a weapon system. Now, we don't have any weapon systems here. We have cameras, and when we say shoot, we're not shooting any buildings, we're shooting images, or videos. This is really where it all started for me, this little guy. Now, these were RC, or radio-controlled, vehicles, but this is nothing like a modern platform.
This is from about, oh, I'd say six or seven years ago. It was fairly a dumb aircraft. It had up, down, left, right, twist left, twist right, that was about the movements. It didn't know where it was or what was going on, and there was no camera assembly. Then you moved on to more powerful systems, again, radio-controlled, but really no intelligence. It wasn't, for me, until Parrot came out with this very first system that I started to see the potential that drones, or UAVs, would have in the construction business, because what Parrot did is they put a lightweight airframe together, they made it detachable, so you could very easily pull the styrofoam off, and you could bump into things.
They put a camera on the front, and they put these ground sensors that would detect if the drone was near the ground or near an obstacle below it or not. This was from about five years ago, and actually this is still being sold in Best Buy today, though at a much lower cost than I purchased it. Parrot, which is a French company, then came out with a more advanced platform, the Bebop, which incorporated a digitally-controlled gimbal. Now, you'll find that one of the keys, and there's a few key sensor technologies that came out that really made modern UAV platforms capable of doing the job in construction.
The first was a much higher-powered camera than this. You generally are looking for a 1080p or a 4k video camera. Secondly, you're looking for a gimbal. Now, a mechanical gimbal really first came out built in with the Phantom 2 Vision +, and what you're seeing here is a three-axis, brushless motor, that keeps the camera stable no matter what the drone is doing. It allows us to take stable video shots. The very first DJI, and this is really where my love affair started, but this is where I started to get really excited about what we could do, because this particular drone from DJI had a GPS chipset that allowed it to stay in the same place even when a strong wind was blowing.
In my very first aircraft I had, when a strong wind would come, in particular with this guy, it would blow it way off of course. When the Phantom came out, and DJI's a Chinese company, they rolled this GPS technology out that allowed the drone to stay in one place. But it was missing a gimbal, so we had to kind of ad hoc one, and it didn't have any ground sensors, it didn't have any collision sensors, so it still was a moderately intelligent drone, and there was no way to easily connect your own camera, you had to get a third-party camera system.
With the Vision 2+, now, I'm really sticking with the future to the DJI drone set. There are definitely a lot of other drone manufacturers, but we're talking about things you can easily buy on Amazon or at Best Buy and that you can use today, and will work with the majority of software platforms. So this DJI Vision 2+ had a wireless sensor, it had a gimbal with a camera, and would allow you to connect, you actually clipped your phone onto the controller, and then it also brought some more sophisticated GPS technology.
But we still had a problem with collisions and other things, and honestly, the frame rate wasn't great. When things started to get really good was the Phantom 3 Professional, because then we had a 4k camera. And I actually still fly this today, because it was such an effective base unit. We now had ground sensors similar to what the Parrot, the AR drone 2.0 had, but they baked it onto this drone array. We have a 4k camera assembly, we've got a gimbal, we've got some really, really, a good sensor package, and this is about two and a half years old and I'm still able, pretty effectively, to start this up and to launch it.
So this Phantom 3 drone platform is still very, very good. It has a clip and a wired connection. One of the better things they did with the Phantom 3 Pro was giving us a wired tether through a USB cable to our phone. The 4 really brought the coup de gras, as we say, and a little lagniappe, if we go back to my Louisiana days. The Phantom 4 brought something extremely important on the job site, and that is collision avoidance. So now you've got an unmanned aerial vehicle that's got GPS control, it's got ground sensors, it's got a 4k camera, really high resolution static.
They did a few other really good things. They actually gave you an assembly and carrying case, they made the propellers just twist off, so it was much easier to break your drone down, take it to the job site, and assemble it again. And they did some phenomenal things, really, with the controller set, to where you're very easily able to, again, take the drone out, and with the frontal collision sensors, now, when you fly it, you're no longer going to be as prone to running into objects on the job site like cranes and walls. These are forward-looking sensor arrays, so it really protects you forward and sideways.
The Phantom 4 Professional, which is not listed here, does side and back protection as well. So it has full 360 protection. Again, these are very, very easy to launch and to fly, and you can do some really really great stuff with getting these guys off the ground. So, in another video, we're actually going to walk through the Phantom 4 Professional, actually the Phantom 4, and we're going to go through some different apps for construction you can use with drones to get you up and running and get you up and flying really fast.
Follow James Benham—the CEO of JBKnowledge, Inc.—as he explains how construction science and computer science are merging into one joint field of study. James shares essential terms that you need to know to speak intelligently about topics like the cloud and machine learning. Plus, he dives into topics like the Internet of Things, the evolution of drones, and 3D printing. To wrap up the course, he covers IT budgets, staffing, and investing in research and development.
- Learning about the origins of construction technology
- Reviewing essential construction tech terms
- Understanding the Internet of Things
- Reviewing the evolution of drones
- Learning about the 3D printing process
- Investing in IT
- Investing in research and development