How AI and Drones Can Improve Efficiency, Operations, Safety and Security in Construction Sites

Artificial intelligence (AI) and drone technologies are enabling construction companies to streamline their workflows, improve efficiency, and reduce security and safety risks. Combining the two with other technologies such as VR, IoT, and others provides powerful monitoring and inspection tools that ease the collection, analysis, and summarizing of different types of data from construction sites.

Once a drone collects information from the site, the AI analyses the data, and together with other tools, presents actionable and easy-to-understand reports to the managers, supervisors, and other stakeholders. This enables them to track the progress of the project, identify and address performance, security, and compliance, and safety issues.

Some key benefits of AI and drones in construction include;

  • Improve efficiency, and ensure completion of projects within the scheduled time and budget.
  • Help to improve quality, security, safety, and compliance.
  • Enhance project monitoring.
  • Supporting a faster and better decision-making process.
  • Reduce construction costs

Challenges supervising and optimizing operations at construction sites

Construction is a big industry worth over $10 trillion a year. However, it suffers from a wide range of inefficiencies that range from poor workmanship and theft of materials to delayed project completion, low returns, and budget overruns.

Because of a variety of challenges, it takes about 20 percent longer, in addition to huge budget overruns to complete large construction projects. This has an impact on the project owner’s and contractors’ revenues.

For a long time, construction companies have traditionally relied on slow manual data collection and analysis practices. These methods have several limitations and are unable to cope in today’s competitive environment where saving costs and time is critical in ensuring good returns and reputation.

One way of addressing these is to use technologies that provide quick, effective monitoring, analysis, and insights. This includes unmanned aerial vehicles, artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things, data analytics, 3D, and other emerging technologies that allow teams to gain more visibility and improve processes.

How artificial intelligence and drone work in the construction industry

The combination of drone and AI technology automates the process of ensuring quality and compliance with the plans. It does this by comparing expected outcomes and the activities and progress at the construction site. Equipped with sensors, such as cameras, infrared, laser-based range finders, and others, unmanned aerial vehicles can gather a wide range of data. One of the benefits of these technologies is the ability to quickly, safely, and effectively monitor large construction sites at a lower cost compared to traditional manual methods.

AI and drones

Drone inspection – Image: University Of Florida


Using AI and machine learning to analyze huge amounts of data enables managers and other professionals to remotely monitor and gain insights into the activities at the construction site. For example, they can see how workers are carrying out their duties, equipment usage, material movements, safety conditions, and more.

Although this is possible using manual means, where a supervisor walks around the site, the AI-based drone solution is far more efficient, quicker, and comprehensive.

Role of artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence describes the technology a machine uses to mimic a human being’s cognitive functions such as learning, pattern recognition, and problem-solving. Generally, AI allows machines to quickly analyze massive amounts of data, identify certain patterns, understand a situation, and provide insights.

The ability to recognize and classify images helps to identify a wide range of objects, activities, worker behaviors as well as unsafe practices. Some solutions can analyze millions of possible construction scenarios, based on data from drones, and then come up with the best way to do things.

artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence – Image: Pixabay


Impact and benefits of AI and drones in construction

When implemented well, the AI-drone combinations have the potential to improve the processes and efficiency in the construction industry. Today, the combination of drones, AI, and IoT can deliver up to 20 % savings in construction costs.

Using drones, managers can perform more and better inspections of the construction sites from the ground or remote locations. This allows them to enhance security and other activities, hence reducing losses.

Some of the ways construction companies can use these technologies include;

Optimizing operations at the worksite

AI can learn from previous data and projects and then suggest several optimization methods based on the feedback from drone footage.

Drone aerial surveys of the construction sites, together with AI analytics can establish if workers are crowding unnecessarily, whether they are using the best paths for material movement within the site, etc. The AI then compares the actual footage with the ideal models upon which it recommends optimization opportunities, such as shortening the material delivery paths, adding or reducing the workers and equipment, etc.

Enhance security and safety

A drone-based computer vision enhanced by artificial intelligence, surveillance cameras, and others can carry out regular inspections to establish if workers are taking away construction materials or tools.

Other than this AI-based surveillance can detect unsafe working conditions such as obstructions, spillages, lack of protective gear, overcrowding, etc. Analyzing such footage with the AI engines gives the managers real-time visibility even when they are in the office, and they can take corrective actions such as warning the particular workers or people in charge.

Quality control

AI can analyze the drone data, including images and measurements, to establish if the construction is going on as per specifications. Getting some of these details may be difficult or time-consuming when using manual inspections.

As the construction goes on, the drones will capture images and then use special software to create 3D images which AI then uses to compare with reference designs. Using a drone is much faster and quicker than a human being in addition to being safer and more detailed. For example, taking measurements at the rooftop is much easier with a drone than using manual methods.

Predictable construction work progress

In addition to drone data, AI can provide valuable outcomes based on drone inspections and other information, such as scheduling tools and weather forecasts. This provides site managers with better predictions while suggesting alternative approaches such as priority and optimization areas.

AI has the potential to predict progress by comparing the drone footage with reference models. This involves comparing visual insights from drones and the expected output. This way, AI establishes if the construction is on track and if not, provides alternative options to improve speed. This could mean adding more workers with specific skills, addressing delays in material supplies, shortening the routes and processes workers use to move around the construction site, prioritizing what is important, and more.

Performing safety audits on construction sites

The construction industry has a high of 20% of the total worker fatalities by all industries. This is a high number considering that only 7% of workers are in this industry. The injuries result from falling, structure collapses, slippery surfaces, and other poor work practices. Also, some workers may work without protective clothing such as helmets and safety boots, hence exposing themselves to various risks.

Unsafe work practices detected from surveillance footage

AI-based drone safety inspections – Image Towards Data Science

Working with camera-equipped drones and other image capture technologies such as surveillance cameras, AI can help construction managers observe how the workers on site are behaving and handling equipment, materials, and other objects in real time

The intelligent image recognition and classification features enable managers and supervisors to analyze drone videos and photos to identify potential safety risks, bad workmanship, hazardous behaviors, and other issues that require addressing.

Measures may include looking for more skilled workers or safety training. Also, it can help identify what works best and hence allow the construction managers to optimize their operations.

Better project planning

Construction companies can use drones to capture 3D scans of the structures as work progresses. AI systems can analyze the scans and determine how far or closer the other sub-projects such as roofing, plumbing, and others are, hence enabling better planning and minimizing delays.

If they establish that they are behind schedule, the management can address the issues causing delays, hence avoiding extending project timelines and budget overruns. The AI can use reinforcement learning and a combination of scenarios based on similar ongoing and past projects.

Adding other technologies such as IoT allows the managers to monitor the construction equipment and monitor their conditions and maintenance needs in real time.

Address the shortage of skills

Artificial intelligence and unmanned aerial vehicles have the potential to address the skilled labor shortage in the construction industry. Engineers can send drones equipped with high-quality cameras to the construction sites, and then use virtual reality goggles to see and track what is happening at the sites while still in their offices. This enables organizations to keep track of and supervise work at several construction sites without increasing the number of engineers.

The real-time analysis of the site data can help to boost productivity while reducing supervision costs. Regular monitoring at predetermined intervals will also enable the managers to keep track of the progress, see which projects are on schedule, why some are behind, and how to correct the situation. Instead of using human experts, who are in scarcity, the companies will rely on low-cost AI-powered drone inspections.


Combining drones and artificial intelligence creates a powerful and intelligent platform for collecting and analyzing data. Although AI is still not widely used in construction, it has great potential to optimize various activities and improve efficiency while cutting significant amounts of project costs and time.

The two technologies enable companies to find optimization opportunities at managerial and worksite levels, improve efficiency, and reduce costs and project delays.

To find out how you can deploy the technology in your organization, please feel free to talk to our technical experts.