Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

for Automated BIM-based Construction Progress & Reporting



By Danilo Arba

Milan, Italy


Lima, Peru




The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and drones has increased in recent years in the construction industry. The progress in technology in the design and navigation of low-weight and autonomous drones and UAVs allowed for a cost-effective and more practical operation in construction management and monitoring [1].

An innovative automated construction monitoring and reporting framework, based on real-time data obtained from UAVs are developed, the data will be collected from multiple locations and point clouds used to construct a 3D model using photogrammetry techniques [2].

This new model obtained from drone images can be compared to the BIM model at various construction stages to monitor the construction progress. Besides construction scheduling and costing, this comparison can include real-time recording, reporting, billing, verification, and planning.

With the obtained automated system, a significant reduction of the effort required can be observed compared to more traditional methods, resulting in better operations, planning and effective on-site adjustments.

Keywords – Drones, UAVs, progress measurement, GIS, 3D mapping, monitoring, aerial monitoring, BIM model, unmanned service devices, USDs, Smart Construction Monitoring


“You have probably seen them buzzing around above you: drones.”[1] Year after year they are becoming a typical sight and people, also non-professionals, are using them for all sorts of purposes. UAVs are increasingly becoming part of our lives, but why? [3]

The first recorded UAV dates back to 1849, “when the Austrian attacked the Italian city of Venice using unmanned balloons that were loaded with explosives”[2][4]. “The first drone was the 1918  Kettering Bug, developed for defence in World War I. It was used as an aerial torpedo to reduce the need for manned flights over hostile territory.”[3]

Between WW1 and WW2, the “Reginald Denny series from Reginald Denny industries were the first drones produced on a large scale, around 15.000, and Northrop bought the company in 1936.”[4]

“In 1946, B-17 Flying Fortresses were transformed into drones for collecting radioactivity data during nuclear tests”[5]. “Decoy drones, such as the ADM-20 Quail, were developed during the Cold War to help manned planes fly safely into defended airspace.”[6] “The use of reconnaissance drones in the Vietnam War highlighted the main purpose of drones, then and now: to gather information.”[7]

It does not matter which type of drone we choose, they all have a common denominator: they accomplish a task that would prove time-consuming, costly, confusing, or even impossible for a human. We need to be sure to choose the correct type of drone for the selected task. When people talk about drones, they usually think of vehicles that are flown remotely (RPV). New apps/technology development is growing to allow communications of the many new unmanned service devices (USDs).


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How to cite this paper: Arba, D. (2020). Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for Automated BIM-based Construction Progress & Reporting; PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue VIII, August. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/pmwj96-Aug2020-Arba-unmanned-aerial-vehicles-for-construction-progress-reporting.pdf



About the Author

Danilo Arba

Milan, Italy
Lima, Peru


Danilo Arba is a project controls & management enthusiast, with 20 years of experience. Certified Cost Engineer and Executive MBA from Politecnico di Milano. Thorough understanding of EPC (Engineering, Procurement, and Construction) industry, with verifiable track record of planning multimillion/billion-dollar worldwide construction projects. He lived & worked all his life around the world from South America, Africa, South East Asia to Europe. Adept at building and leading cross-functional teams from project conception to completion, optimising performance, contractual, and financial deliverables. Currently furthering his education by way of a distance learning mentoring course, under the tutorage of Dr Paul D. Giammalvo, CDT, CCE, MScPM, MRICS, GPM-m Senior Technical Advisor, PT Mitrata Citragraha, to attain Guild of Project Controls certification.

Danilo lives in Milan, Italy and Lima, Peru and can be contacted at danilo.arba@mip.polimi.it


[1] (n.d.). PwC Belgium: audit, tax and consulting services. https://www.pwc.be/en/documents/20180801-drones-eye-view-v2

[2] Rshaffer. (2020, June 10). A short history of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Consortiq. https://consortiq.com/short-history-unmanned-aerial-vehicles-uavs/

[3]Stamp, J. (2013, February 12). Unmanned drones have been around since World War I. Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/unmanned-drones-have-been-around-since-world-war-i-16055939

[4] Radioplane company. (2015, January 3). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved June 25, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioplane_Company

[5] B-17 Flying Fortress. (2019, March 25). AIRMAN Magazine. https://airman.dodlive.mil/2019/03/25/b-17-flying-fortress/

[6] ADM-20 quail. (n.d.). Federation Of American Scientists – Science for a safer, more informed world. https://fas.org/nuke/guide/usa/bomber/adm-20.htm

[7] A brief history of drones. (n.d.). Imperial War Museums. https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/a-brief-history-of-drones