Ground and aerial robots heading to construction site

Consolidation and development are driving a tech makeover in construction.
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer

For anyone who doubts automation is coming to the construction site, another piece of evidence: a leading enterprise drone data company has just acquired a robotics software company in a bid to help customers orchestrate aerial and ground robots in industries like energy, agriculture, and construction.

The announcement from DroneDeploy, which will acquire New Zealand-based Rocos, is part of a larger pattern of automation, AI, and computer vision technologies converging in construction, a pervasive global industry that hasn't had a major technology reboot in a very long time.

The reason for the rush to make human construction workers stronger, faster, and smarter and to leverage automation toward greater efficiency is related to the disquieting fact that productivity in construction has actually fallen in half since the 1960s. The sector has not kept pace with innovation. As I've written, the diesel-powered hydraulic machines you'll find on most construction sites today remain essentially unchanged from those rolling around 100 years ago. 

As a result, there are massive inefficiencies in the industry. According to KPMG's Global Construction Survey, just 25% of projects came within 10% of their original deadlines. When it comes to megaprojects, like large infrastructure projects, McKinsey found that 98% are delayed or over budget. 77% are more than 40% behind schedule

DroneDeploy, which helps construction managers create digital twins of job sites, is eager to expand its footprint during what feels like a development arms race around the sector.

"Companies are undergoing a digital transformation accelerated by challenges surrounding labor shortages and COVID-driven remote operations. As a result, the market demand for automatic site documentation and digital twins has soared," said Mike Winn, CEO and co-founder of DroneDeploy. "With the Rocos acquisition, we are enabling our customers to automate ground-level data capture, moving several steps closer to a complete automation solution."

DroneDeploy, which powers the world's largest companies to capture an instant understanding of their assets and operations through aerial imagery, is keen to expand its reach to on-the-ground robots. The Rocos acquisition will allow customers to establish automated routines within the platform from both the air and the ground, representing a new technologically enabled reality for the job site. 

"A few years ago, drones made the leap from hobbyist toys to enterprise tools. Now, ground robotics is on a similar trajectory," said David Inggs, former CEO and co-founder of Rocos, now DroneDeploy's Head of Ground Robotics. "With the addition of Rocos' ground robotics technology, DroneDeploy can now automate critical data workflows across both air and ground use cases, enabling greater safety and efficiency for the whole worksite."

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