Strict rules have until recently prevented any use of the technology in commercial applications in the USA. Signs of a relaxation came last year when some Hollywood film companies were granted permission.
Bechtel is now able to operate unmanned aircraft system (UAS) technology, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles or drones, to enhance construction processes. The company has teamed up with drone manufacturer Skycatch to advance adoption of the technology.
“The use of UASs is crucial to continued innovation in engineering and construction,” said Mike Lewis, Bechtel’s manager of construction. “We teamed with Skycatch to explore innovative ways of integrating drones into our execution systems, particularly on the mega projects Bechtel is building around the world. This technology helps improve safety and quality of project delivery by providing real-time data and analysis to project teams so they can act in a timely manner.”
“We have put a lot of thought into our drones and their operation, heavily focused on the safe and efficient use of the technology,” says Christian Sanz, founder and CEO of Skycatch. “We developed a unique platform connected to a cloud for real-time analytics, and with preprogramed geographic controls for safe operation and compliance with flight announcements.”
The FAA authorization granted under the Section 333 of the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act is based on the UAS technology and accompanying software developed by Skycatch. The technology gathers real-time data and provides data analytics necessary to improve efficiency of construction on large and complex projects. Skycatch uses a patented automated power system that automatically recharges during operation, allowing drones to fly extended periods of time. The system can carry a variety of sensors like high-definition cameras, infrared scanners, thermal sensors, and radiation monitors.
Bechtel teamed with Skycatch in 2013 to further develop the company’s UAS platform and integrate it into Bechtel’s systems and processes. The data collected by the drone can now be stored in a cloud, analysed within Bechtel’s design and construction software requirements, and viewed on multiple devices by the teams on site. The companies proved the technology's viability at one of the largest LNG projects in Australia.