Building Structure Investigations with Drones

Modern technology gives Architects access to places ladders can not reach, saving time and money.

When RDG investigated window and stone conditions at the Iowa State Capitol building over 20 years ago, invasive and expensive tower cranes were brought on site to deliver the architects face to face with the building, over the course of a full week. Last summer, the same level of investigation was conducted in a few hours, using a drone.

In the spring of 2017, RDG conducted an intensive investigation of the exterior walls and windows of both the Iowa State Capitol Building and the Ola Babcock Miller Building (formerly the Old Historical building) which are the two oldest buildings on the State Capitol complex campus. The drones gave our team extensive and instantaneous video footage of the surfaces within a few hours. Detailed digital video is acquired by the drone from only a few feet away from the building. (The drone can even detect how far it is from the wall, to prevent collision.) After a few flights, the resident Peregrine falcon concluded that the drone was too small for a meal, and allowed us to continue!

The captured footage is later analyzed by the architect to accurately document the existing conditions and develop an action plan for repairing and maintaining the building windows, stone, and roofing. The digital files are then delivered to the building owner as part of their record, for comparisons in the future.

All our pilots are RDG employees, who are trained in architecture, but have obtained the required Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) licensing for operating commercial drones for business purposes. Drones are a spectacular tool available to the team for a complete building investigation, and RDG is one of the few design firms able to offer this service.


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