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The digital eye in the sky. How drones are helping Costain deliver faster, safer, greener, and more efficient complex projects

The digital eye in the sky. How drones are helping Costain deliver faster, safer, greener, and more efficient complex projects

When designing for major programmes of complex engineering, technology plays a vital part in increasing safety and efficiency and reducing cost and programme delay. Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone technology provides a valuable perspective or a bird’s eye view to monitor the programme and progress.

Remotely piloted, drones enable remote inspection and monitoring of urban and rural sites across a wide range of transportation sector projects including highways and rail.  Costain’s trained and qualified drone pilots use their skills to conduct remote, hi resolution virtual inspections in a variety of scenarios including pre demolition surveys of 20th century buildings as part of the HS2 project.

During the demolition of a complex portfolio of multi-period buildings and rail structures at Euston in Central London, risk is managed through careful planning, design, and proactive site investigations. The main aims are to produce and deliver high quality records of asset condition, post-possession in a safe and cost-effective way.

On the Costain Skanska Joint Venture delivering the HS2 Enabling Works, drones were deployed into confined spaces with the potential for asbestos and other site-specific risks. 

Digital technology in action

Drone technology - a digital eye in the sky
watch video

The highly trained engineering survey team generated real-time video data to determine the presence of asbestos, removing the need for specially trained asbestos specialists to enter the space. Thanks to the drone and its pilot, 16 hours of confined space work was avoided on a single building alone. The integration of drone pilots with the engineering survey team, allows a dynamic approach to problem solving and site investigations which saves both time and money.

The drone footage provided a valuable resource for remedial works, risk management and best practice sharing across industry as well as on-site training for those working in the demolition teams. 

"The engineering survey team utilises the latest drone technology to enable faster delivery on complex projects, rather than traditional methods, in areas such as confined spaces. By having our drone survey capability in house, we have the technology at our fingertips which gives us access to all the data, saving time and money.”

Richard Bath, Costain senior engineering surveyor

Additionally, Costain (Skanska Costain STRABAG working in partnership with HS2) is one of only 16 entities to win a share of £30 million in a venture led by specialist drone command and control solution developer, Sees.ai, to develop and test a remotely operated drone system for industrial and urban environments.

The funding comes from the Future Flight Challenge, Phase 2 competition, part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, delivered by UK Research and Innovation.

“It’s exciting to be part of this trial to safely fly drones beyond visual line of sight in industrial environments. Although drones are by no means a new concept they are still far from business as usual and we are only just scratching the surface of their potential, especially when it comes to operating in challenging locations such as the underground tunnels we are building for HS2. We are always looking at new ways to improve safety, work more efficiently and deliver a world leading project such as HS2, “said Skanska Costain STRABAG Joint Venture’s Harrison O’Hara innovation manager.


To find out how the use of drone technology could benefit your project contact Jonathan Wales.