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10/05/21

Game of Drones

Game of Drones

“Drones overall will be more impactful than I think people recognise, in positive ways to help society.”

Bill Gates. 


Author: Ashlea Read, Regional Director for Asia Pacific, Driver Trett Hong Kong


Eight trillion US dollars a year — that is the amount the construction industry is currently valued at. However, as we are all aware, it is not the most efficient industry and a 2020 report on worldwide construction claims stated that the global average value of a construction delay dispute is a staggering US$30.7 million (Global Construction Disputes Report 2020 - Arcadis).

The use of commercial drones on construction sites is readily becoming common practice with usage rising by 239 percent year over year from day-to-day use (UAVs are changing the world, one industry at a time, Marco Margaritoff July 9, 2018), to use in dispute resolution.

Drones are currently being used on construction sites to track equipment, mapping and surveys, security surveillance, site safety measures, structure inspections and to track project progress to name just a few.

Their efficiency and ever adapting capabilities allow them to reduce construction costs, improve workflow and accuracy and maintain real-time control, based on real-time data, all of which reduce risks and can lead to higher certainty when working on construction projects. The data captured can also be integrated with BIM technology and therefore assist in the development of BIM models and increase efficiency levels throughout the entire life cycle of buildings.

Although drones are being successfully used on projects daily, how can they be positively utilised within dispute resolution?

We are all familiar with the phrase ‘records, records, records’, and yet a lot of the time, projects find themselves making the same mistakes time and time again.

Why is it that we do not always learn from our mistakes?

Collecting data on a daily basis, especially on large mega projects, is certainly a timely and labour intensive activity and does not always allow contractors or employers the opportunity to react quickly to changes on the ground or for that matter be made aware of them in a timely manner.
This inefficiency creates a huge opportunity for the use of commercial drones.

Delays are unfortunately common on construction projects and are often mismanaged as sourcing accurate data and records and establishing the progress of the works post event can be problematic. If a potential delay event on site is missed, or even missed for a few days, it can essentially result in significant setbacks, pushing projects over budget.

Even if this happens a handful of times, it can sometimes result in millions of dollars of additional cost which could have easily been avoided.

How could this risk be mitigated using a drone?
A 30-minute drone flight could potentially collect the same data that it may take a surveyor up to a day to collect and ultimately achieve a higher grade of accuracy.

However, one important consideration when seeking to utilise drones on site, is for any relevant regulatory restrictions that may apply. In many countries, there are restrictions relating to the use of drones, especially in sensitive areas such as the aviation sector.

The use of daily drone flights monitoring and tracking the progress of a project could be invaluable in the event of a dispute. More often than not the necessary records are incomplete, missing, or simply do not exist, leading to conflicting conclusions between the parties, and often, assumptions being made which can subsequently lead to disputes becoming lengthy and costly to all.

Alternatively, the collection of data could be used jointly between the parties to assist with extensions of time being agreed and a dispute being avoided altogether, when both parties have clear access to the same facts. These fundamental factual records may reduce the scope for conflicting delay events and subsequently reduce dispute costs.

For the parties, the experts, and importantly the tribunal, being able to view accurate progress weekly or daily is a huge advantage.

Expert evidence and particularly that of a delay expert, can often be criticised for being too theoretical, or for using an approach too complicated for a ‘non-delay’ person to easily understand.

What does the future hold for drones in dispute resolution?

It is yet to be actively seen how drones can be used in construction disputes. However, in my opinion, it is just a matter of time before their use becomes common practice.

The speed and ease that a drone can accurately collect data has revolutionised the construction industry and drones will only be used more and more, especially as technology continues to advance which will only aid the dispute resolution process.

Although there is not much data generated yet as to the successful use of drones in the dispute resolution process, I have no doubt that the use of drones will ‘take off’, so until then I guess all we can do is watch this ‘air’ space.


Dated: 25/03/2021 
This article was originally written and released as part of issue 21 of the Driver Trett Digest.
To view the publication, please visit: driver-group.com/digest-issue-21


 

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