FAA approves Bechtel to use unmanned aircraft for construction projects

7 April 2015 (Last Updated April 7th, 2015 18:30)

The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted permission to Bechtel to commercially use unmanned aircraft system (UAS) technology for construction projects.

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The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted permission to Bechtel to commercially use unmanned aircraft system (UAS) technology for construction projects.

Granted under Section 333 of the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act, the FAA authorisation will allow the construction company to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles or drones on various projects to improve construction processes within the virtual project delivery approach.

Bechtel manager of construction Mike Lewis said: "The use of UASs is crucial to continued innovation in engineering and 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."

The latest technology provides real-time data and analysis to project teams and helps improve safety and quality of project delivery, and will be used to collect data to ensure safe operation of projects

Skycatch founder and CEO Christian Sanz said: "We have put a lot of thought into our drones and their operation, heavily focused on the safe and efficient use of the technology.

"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 authorisation is said to be based on the Skycatch-developed UAS technology and accompanying software, which gathers real-time data and provides data analytics necessary to improve efficiency of construction on complex projects.

An automated power system used by Skycatch automatically recharges during operation and permits drones to fly for extended periods of time.

"Difficult and inaccessible terrain can be surveyed using the technology to provide accurate information needed for the engineering teams." 

The system can carry various sensors such as high-definition cameras, infrared scanners, thermal sensors and radiation monitors.

In 2013, Bechtel partnered with Skycatch to further develop the company's UAS technology and integrate it into its systems and processes.

The drone gathers the data, which can be stored in a cloud and analysed within Bechtel's design and construction software requirements, enabling teams on-site to view multiple devices.

Difficult and inaccessible terrain can be surveyed using the technology to provide accurate information needed for the engineering teams to design facilities.

Real-time construction progress can also be tracked enabling the site teams to work safely and plan construction, Bechtel said.


Image: FAA has authorised Bechtel to use drones on various construction projects. Photo: courtesy of Skycatch.