One of the largest general contractors in South Florida is using drone technology to enhance safety before workers ever step onto a construction site. By showing team members 3D models of potential hazardous conditions on site, Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Current Builders hopes to optimize worker safety.

The company is in the R&D phase of drone flights over projects that will take daily and even hourly photos to capture ‘as-built’ conditions, says virtual design and construction director Kar Ho. That information will then be overlaid into a 3D model, which will allow workers to make adjustments to reflect on-site realities.

Aerial photography taken by a drone at Parc 3400, a luxury rental community under construction by Current Builders in Davie, Fla.
Aerial photography taken by a drone at Parc 3400, a luxury rental community under construction by Current Builders in Davie, Fla.

"Ultimately, the combination of these technologies will give us a greater capacity to forecast problems before they happen in the field," he says. "This ability will offer our clients tremendous cost savings.”

The next phases of virtual reality will usher in an even greater era of problem-solving capabilities, Ho predicts, as he anticipates designers meeting virtually at sites to review real time situations, making changes before construction begins. “Communication is going to be greatly enhanced,” says Ho. “Less will be lost in translation between all the different teams and subcontractors, and problems will be mitigated much earlier in the timeline.”

Ho sees this level of this immersive VR being about a year or so away, as currently the controls need to become more intuitive and user-friendly. But changes are coming rapidly.

"Years ago, we would spend hours with clients showing them a variety of samples for kitchens and baths finishes, now they watch 3D models and instantly click through hundreds of different combinations,” says Ho. “This has eliminated days, if not weeks, from this process because they are experiencing it in 3D instantly. The next step will be even more productive as it will be a truly virtual walk-through experience.”

This virtual technology is invaluable for recent graduates entering the field, he says, because it helps prepare them to enter real world conditions. Current Builders’ mentoring and education programs have been a core component of the 45-year-old company, and now with this tech immersion the construction industry is attracting a wider range of students exploring the profession. “For kids who grew up gaming, they find our field very exciting,” says Ho.

Established in 1972, Current Builders is a full-service general contractor with construction volumes of over $150 million annually, in residential and commercial work.