Monitoring infrastructure development through drone tech

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The construction process of building schools, clinics or libraries will be monitored by the use of a drone, thanks to a new initiative launched by the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development (DID).

Chief Director for Infrastructure Research and Planning Division Amanda Moletsane, 33, is the young lady who is leading the pack in the implementation of the drone project.

She said adding cutting edge technology to service delivery adds a new dimension to the monitoring capability of the DID.

“When we came up with this project we were looking at how we could deliver in a timeous, cost-effective and more efficient manner when monitoring our projects around the province.”

Moletsane and her team started piloting the drone programme in January this year. A total of 63 projects, including clinics, schools and community centres, were selected to test the use of the drone in order to monitor a construction project.

The drone has a camera and feeds live video and images to a remote or a mobile phone which can be used remotely. That means an operator can film a construction project to check on developments and identify possible problems.

“The drone checks if there were people on site, was there equipment and material for the work that needs to be done. It would also give feedback on how far the project was in its completion.” 

The drone programme is being initiated by a team of seven people one of whom is a licensed drone pilot.

She said it cost her division about R55 000 to purchase the drone, train one of her team members to be a drone pilot and to ensure adherence to South African Civil Aviation Authority regulations to operate a drone.

Moletsane said it usually cost government about R2 million to monitor infrastructure projects in the department.

“On average, for an official to physically go to the site to monitor the progress of work, they need to drive about 30km to 40km for one project. To manage a fleet of government cars costs about R2 million. The use of a drone is cost-effective and efficient.”

She said when her team was looking at implementing this programme they were looking for something innovative that would keep up with current technological monitoring avenues in the construction industry.

“The use of drone in construction is something that is being implemented across the world at building sites.”

The drone is housed at the DID’s nerve centre, Lutsinga Infrastructure House.

DID MEC Jacob Mamabolo said the new intervention essentially combines human intelligence, business intelligence and now artificial intelligence to ensure that the entire value chain of project delivery is efficient and that projects are delivered in time, within cost and at the right quality.

“It is possible for the public sector to be efficient and to be productive in what we do and that is exactly what we are demonstrating,” said Mamabolo, during the launch of the programme on Monday.

The drone also helps in the monitoring of safety compliance on construction sites to meet health standards.

The programme assists DID to identify blockages in the delivery of construction projects to visit sites, troubleshoot and intervene to improve project management performance as well as productivity.

“One of the things that we have looked at is that globally infrastructure performance is lagging behind other industries. Therefore over the past two years we’ve been working hard to introduce efficiencies across the value chain of development,” Mamabolo added.

*this story first appeared in Vuk’uzenzele