Drone technology allows building site surveyors to map a large area more quickly, easily, and safely than ever before.

Construction has fallen behind other fields in research and development spending, according to a study by McKinsey & Co. Only 1% of revenue is ever spent on construction-related research and development, compared to 3.5% in automotive and 4.5% in aerospace. However, many big builders and startups are looking to new technologies and practices in order to maximize efficiency, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Robb M. Stewart. The Boston Consulting Group predicts that full-scale digitization of the construction sector would lead to savings of 13% to 21%, or as much as $21 billion a year across the globe.

In this context, Stewart makes the case for the “building site of the future.” Virtual 3-D models have streamlined the construction plans for London’s new Elizabeth train line, 3-D printers can construct building materials that can be fitted together on-site, and robotic Semi-Automated Masons, or SAMs, can save a company up to 50% in labor costs on bricklayers. Drones, in particular, have made their mark as a surveyor’s tool, especially with the addition of specialized mapping software for smartphones.

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