Can Drones Make Construction Safer?


According to the latest NIOSH Science Blog, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), often called drones, have the potential to prevent injury and death in the construction industry. UAVs may also create new workplace hazards that need to be evaluated and managed to ensure their safe operation around human workers.

Drones are increasingly used for military, recreational, public, and commercial purposes. UAVs have the potential to prevent injury and death in the construction industry where nearly 1,000 workers died in 2015. Advancements in UAV technology could help reduce construction-related injury and death from falls, toxic chemical exposures, electrical hazards, or traumatic injury from vehicle and equipment collisions.

As is the case with other emerging technologies, occupational safety assessments of UAVs lag behind technological advancements. UAVs may create new workplace hazards that need to be evaluated and managed to ensure their safe operation around human workers.

A recent paper from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in Construction and Worker Safety describes the four major uses of UAVs, including their use in construction, the potential risks of their use to workers, approaches for risk mitigation, and the important role that safety and health professionals can play in ensuring safe approaches to their use in the workplace.

While the article provides a wealth of information on the major uses of UAVs, this blog focuses on UAV use in construction. The commercial segment of the $100 billion UAV market is predicted to be the fastest growing between 2016 and 2020, with the construction industry accounting for the largest share of the growth.By 2025, the U.S. commercial UAV sector is forecast to surpass five billion dollars in investments.

The emerging uses of UAVs in the construction industry range from aiding with construction project planning by aerial mapping of the construction site, to extending to the actual building of structures.