AEC 'Dream Team' Talks Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Group of panelist/speakers sitting in front of audience while one presenter references images of unmanned aircraft vehicles on projection screens.

Industry tech leaders participate in an open panel discussion. | Photo: School of Building Construction


Friday, April 26, 2019

The First Annual Symposium for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in the Built Environment was also the first of its kind at Georgia Tech. It welcomed industry professionals, faculty, and students from the Southeast and abroad.

Faculty from the Schools of Building Construction, Architecture, and Civil and Environmental Engineering, in addition to faculty participation from the School of Aerospace Engineering, organized the symposium. The primary goal was to define an industry-engaging, comprehensive agenda for future UAS research in the built environment.  

The symposium featured current research within the Georgia Tech College of Design and the Georgia Tech community; along with presentations from visiting faculty members and industry professionals.

"There were representatives from a wide range of disciplines and sectors working collaboratively to address a common challenge and opportunity for the built environment," said Daniel Castro, the chair of the School. "This is a reflection of the direction that we are heading in the School: using technology and innovative methodologies, collaborating with other disciplines, and producing relevant outcomes for the built environment."

Cutting-edge research showcased optimization of flight plan operations, building inspections, and integrating advanced design technology, building typology for multi-system design production, infrared modeling for energy modeling, multi-robot mapping, and more.

UAS in AEC is Soaring


Delivery model test drone made at Georgia Tech displayed on table at symposium.

AirBook, Delivery Model Test Drone, CONECTech Lab | Photo: School of Building Construction

"UAS have rapidly permeated architecture, engineering, construction (AEC) and facility management (FM) practices over the past several years and projections indicate the continued growth of their use within these fields beyond the foreseeable future," said School of Building Construction associate professor and symposium organizer Javier Irizarry.

According to statistics compiled by the UAS mapping software company DroneDeploy, there was a 239% increase in the adoption of UAS technology from 2017 to 2018 in construction alone. 

"Given the significant increase in the use of UAS in professions and industries associated with the built environment, research on many topics related to this disruptive technology has also naturally increased," Irizarry said.

"Many operational protocols have been well established for use case applications such as site mapping and modeling through photogrammetry, and building analysis and documentation of construction progress."

In exploring the UAS market, a study by global management firm McKinsey & Company reports big tech companies are in search of industry-specific solutions as it relates to construction-technology. 

"The field of UAS in the built environment is in nascent stages of development and has the potential to alter future standards of practice on numerous fronts. As processes of design, engineering, construction, and facility management continue to evolve into increasingly elaborate forms of multi-system collaboration and workflows reliant upon real-time sharing of information and data, it appears that the development of ever more complex use applications of UAS in the built environment will continue to both expand and diversify," said Irizarry.

"The question at hand is, what's next?"


Georgia Tech Brings AEC Influencers Together

The full-day symposium brought innovative research and engaging discussions from industry and academic leaders. They assembled to share knowledge, expertise, and UAS advancements in industrial and commercial building sectors to further academic work. 

"It was exciting to see, for the first time, a group of researchers and industry professionals in the AEC+FM domain come together to share the latest in research and application of drone technology in the built environment," said Irizarry. "It was even more exciting to work as a group to develop a vision of what is next for drones in the AEC+FM domain, and how we can make the vision come true."

K.P. Reddy presents in front of audience at symposium.

K.P. Reddy delivered opening remarks at the First Annual Symposium for UAS in the Built Environment. He shared the technological advances he's witnessed in the construction industry around the world. Credit: School of Building Construction

David Epps presents in front of audience at symposium.

David Epps talked, “UAS: A Contractor’s Perspective.” Epps, director of Construction Technology at Winter Construction, focuses on BIM and leveraging technology to enhance the art and science of construction. Credit: School of Building Construction

Chaim Van Prooyen presents in front of audience at symposium.

Chaim Van Prooyen talked, “Integrating UAS and ATL.” A project manager at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Van Prooyen oversees airfield projects through design and construction, including the FAA 7460 program. Credit: School of Building Construction

Bob Maguire presents in front of audience at symposium.

Robert "Bob" Maguire presented, "GDOT Use of UAS Aircraft and Types of Missions Flown." Maguire, a private pilot, and a project manager in aviation in the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), develops and manages the department's UAS pilot program. Credit: School of Building Construction

Keith Kaseman presents in front of audience at symposium.

Keith Kaseman talked, “UAS Design Operations.” Kaseman, an assistant professor in the School of Architecture at Georgia Tech, researches the incorporation of AR, VR, MR, UAS, robotics, and other digital fabrication practices into multisystem design-production workflows and experimental spatial systems. Credit: School of Building Construction

Aldo Sollazzo presents in front of audience at symposium.

Aldo Sollazzo presented, “Robotic Sensing-Towards Cognified Habitats.” Sollazzo, a researcher in the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, delivers data-driven design, investigating boundaries between new digital paradigms and design strategies applied to architecture, robotics and fabrication. Credit: School of Building Construction

Simon Briceno presents in front of audience at symposium.

Simon Briceno talked, “UAS and Autonomy as Enabler for the Future of Air Mobility.” The Transformative Aviation Concepts Division Chief and senior research engineer in the Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory at Georgia Tech, Briceno develops methods for autonomous path planning, inventory tracking, and aerial imaging. Credit: School of Building Construction

Kelly Griendling presents in front of audience at symposium.

Kelly Griendling presented, “An Overview of UAS Activity in Georgia.” Griendling, a senior project manager, provides technical support to aerospace companies as part of Georgia’s Center of Innovation for Aerospace. She has developed advanced methodologies to tackle challenges in aerospace, defense, logistics, unmanned systems, and smart cities. Credit: School of Building Construction

Masoud Gheisari presents in front of audience at symposium.

Masoud Gheisari talked, “Unmanned Aerial Systems for Construction Safety.” Gheisari, an assistant professor, leads the Human-Centered Technology in Construction research group at the Rinker School of Construction Management, University of Florida. He researches UAS and real and virtual humans in mixed reality environments. Credit: School of Building Construction

Javier Irizarry presents in front of audience at symposium.

Javier Irizarry presented, “The View from Above: Drones as Agents of Good in the Built Environment.” Irizarry, an associate professor and the director of CONECTech Lab in the Georgia Tech School of Building Construction, researches construction safety, HCI issues in mobile applications for AEC, Situation Awareness driven information system design, and UAS in AEC. Credit: School of Building Construction

Tarek Rakha presents in front of audience at symposium.

Tarek Rakha talked, “Building Envelope Modeling Futures using Heat Mapping Drones.” Rakha is an assistant professor and faculty in the High-Performance Building Lab in the School of Architecture at Georgia Tech. He focuses on building envelope diagnostics and energy modeling using ‘on the fly’ heat mapping and computer-vision drones. Credit: School of Building Construction

Yong Kwon Cho presents in front of audience at symposium.

Yong Kwon Cho presented, “UAV-UGV Collaborative 3D Mapping for Construction Progress Monitoring.” Cho is an associate professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the director of the Robotics and Intelligent Construction Automation Lab at Georgia Tech. He researches construction robotics and field automation. Credit: School of Building Construction

New Era: Drones in Construction

Javier Irizarry standing in front of audience leading a brainstorm discussion.

Associate Professor Javier Irizarry leads brainstorm session. | Photo: School of Building Construction


So, what's next for UAS in the built environment?

Drones depend on various technological facets to operate successfully. Collaborative efforts between computing, mechanical, and aeronautical engineering make up the critical components in developing these new autonomous helpers. 

After the symposium, speakers, faculty, and students convened to discuss thought-provoking ideas for unmet challenges and visions of futuristic capabilities. Topics included large scale job sites, indoor inspections, machine to machine communication, material delivery, BIM interaction, data collection, and bio-drones.

"We are excited about the success of the First Annual Symposium on UAS in the Built Environment and the participation of many colleagues from industry and academia," said Irizarry.

"The presentations and discussions during the symposium will inform the research agenda and will set the tone for Creating the Next in drone applications in the built environment. The School looks forward to next year’s symposium and learning the progress made in such a fast developing field."