With technology developing faster than ever, building sites of the future are likely to look very different to today. One recent technology likely to become more common on building sites is drones.

The use of drones in the UK’s construction industry has been a fairly recent phenomenon in comparison to the US.  However the industry is slowly but surely getting to grips with this new technology. These devices provide a way to obtain real-time data on things such as aerial survey work, monitoring building safety and even undertaking construction itself.

With recent legislation covering drones we discuss the benefits and legal risks associated with the increasing use of drones in construction.

New Legislation

The Modern Transport Bill which was announced in the Queen’s speech at the end of May included new legislation for the UK to lead the way in respect of safe technology, such as drones and spaceplanes.

With this new legislation the prevalence of drones is likely to further increase and dramatically benefit the construction sector, not only by improving health and safety standards but also from a financial perspective.

The benefits of using drones in construction

“Drones have successfully been used to provide an objective view of a site’s development, which is particularly useful when disputes arise regarding a timescale not being met.” – Skycatch.

Some other common benefits of using a drone on a site include:

  • Inspection of hard to reach structures
  • Safety and workflow surveys
  • Digital photography and documentation
  • Monitoring environmental factors
  • Monitoring and improving worker safety

It is clear that using drones has many advantages not least where traditional systems such as ladders, scaffolding or abseiling have a much greater risk. However there use also carries other risks.

The risks of using drones in construction

Companies will need to ensure their drones comply with the Civil Aviation Authority’s requirements, this includes strict airspace restrictions. If they do not comply with these requirements, risks include large fines, and in some cases, a possible prison sentence.

Construction companies also need to be aware of violating the Data Protection Act:

“A business may purchase an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) to monitor inaccessible areas, such as a roof to check for damage. Its use should be limited to that specific function and recording should not occur when flying over other areas that may capture images of individuals.”

The need for insurance

The aerial reach of drones also brings with it the possibility of collisions with people, buildings and other aircraft, leading to property damage, personal injury, and loss of life in extreme cases. Construction companies using drones will need to ensure that their insurance cover these risks.

With the above in mind, businesses within the construction sector who are considering using Drones, should look to purchase more extensive insurance to protect themselves and operators from things such as public liability, professional indemnity and cyber cover.

Risks will become clearer as technology develops. However, to ensure you are protected, construction firms and insurers should start thinking about different types of exposure in largely unchartered areas.

By Olivia Catterall

Please Note: Every care was taken to ensure the information in this article was correct at the time of publication. Any written guidance provided does not replace the reader’s professional judgement and any construction project should comply with the relevant Building Regulations or applicable technical standards. However, for the most up to date LABC Warranty technical guidance please refer to your Risk Management Surveyor and the latest version of the LABC Warranty technical manual.

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