April 18, 2018 – Jeff Rubenstone, ENR – Seeing drones and augmented-reality headsets up close isn’t the novelty it was for construction professionals just a few years ago. But attendees at the Oracle Industry Connect user conference in New York City on April 10-11 were still engaged, wanting hard answers on what this technology can do for their bottom lines.
“Construction is not exactly viewed as a leader when it comes to technology, but that is rapidly changing,” says Mike Sicilia, senior vice president and general manager for Oracle’s construction and engineering business unit. “There’s a lot of pressure on the labor supply chain right now, but there are trends that will help,” he says, citing augmented reality, robotics and other tools as force multipliers for industry workers.
Once we grid out the entire yard, the information isn’t just geo-locational, it’s geo-contextual, as we know where it is and has been,” says Atlas RFID Solutions’ Jon Chesser of the Jovix Drone-Mounted RFID Reader.
The use of drones has expanded in construction, but some of the biggest hurdles remain in collating and applying the vast amount of data they can collect. And power users are starting to make more pointed demands of the manufacturers when it comes to deliverables. “Drones are still in the demonstration phase, and they have shown they have value, but it is critical to integrate this technology into our processes. The technology still needs to mature,” says Shay Bahramirad, director of distribution planning systems for smart grids and innovation at Illinois-based utility ComEd. In a panel discussion with drone makers and data-management experts, Bahramirad raised a point echoed by attendees at the Q&A afterwards—drones can fly a project, but what good is it to a workflow if timestamps and GPS data aren’t accurate enough to make critical decisions? “Collecting that information can be very hard, but that data can help us get our folks to the right place at the right time to prevent outages,” says Bahramirad.
Oracle has partnered with several drone data-collection companies, including an RFID-based system offered by Jovix. The firm has taken the sensors it used to log RFID tag locations from passing pickup trucks and moved them onto drones. “Now it flies around the laydown yard and sees what’s around,” explains Jon Chesser, senior vice president at Jovix. “It can get in the air and read all the RFID tags and calculate the GPS locations.”
Laydown yards for large power projects can have large amounts of materials coming in and out, and Jovix tracks these assets with active RFID tags. The GPS location is then compared with past data, tracking the materials as they move through the site. “Once we grid out the entire yard, the information isn’t just geo-locational, it’s geo-contextual, as we know where it is and has been,” says Chesser.