Spotting construction trouble from the sky? Yes! University of Illinois has developed a predictive analytics tool called “Flying Superintendent” to automate the monitoring of large construction projects.

The system uses images and videos taken by drones flying over the construction site and combines them with Building Information Models (BIM) to identify actual and potential problems. Information from the sky can be brought down to a practical working level anytime. If a problem is spotted the system sends alerts to project staff’s smartphones and tablets.

All personnel, on and off-site, can interact with their 3D models to communicate and analyze work in progress throughout the construction.

Golden 1 Center arena for the Sacramento Kings

University of Illinois is collaborating with Turner Construction Company to implement the technology on the NBA’s Sacramento Kings new downtown arena, the Golden 1 Center, being built now in Sacramento, California.

The new system streamlines the management of weekly work planning efforts because it enables visualizing and mitigating potential risks. It also highlights how a slowdown in one area could affect the entire project.

Awards, grants and the future

The team is now developing prototypes to autonomously collect images on construction sites using drones and ground robots without relying on GPS for navigation purposes. They are also exploring mechanisms to mount video cameras on building elements to detect and track construction resources and offer visual data analytics on construction safety and productivity.

Does this sound like cool construction research and development? Well, the team has received recognition. Turner Construction Company awarded University of Illinois the Turner Innovation Award. The university team also received a nearly $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation for the project, which kicked off in January 2015 and will continue through the end of 2019.

With the support of the university’s new entrepreneurial fellowship program, the solutions is being commercialized and there is already a spinoff company housed in University of Illinois Research Park.

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