The COMIT2Drones International conference at the Bentley Institute began robustly as delegates streamed through the doors at 9:30am. This fully booked event filled the venue with that audible level of networking that never fails to impress. As existing members engage and bring into the community those attending for the first time with a natural, uncontrived warmth of people genuinely passionate about their industry.
The COMIT drone community continues to go from strength to strength and the addition of the COMIT2drone portal adds to that. This is an important element of the advancement of drones on construction sites program. It allows members to collaborate directly with other members and gives access to shared community material - such as presentations, standards and on-going project details. It also gives members access to specialists that can really enhance their organisation's drone capabilities.
The community is a real credit to the organisations involved and they are deserving of the plaudits that they receive. A lot has already been achieved in a relatively short space of time and it was important to highlight those leading members in the day's opening remarks.
The strength of the community is its ability to bring construction and innovative new technology together – wherever it is in the world. Broadcasting live from Pune, India to a London audience and to the online global delegates, Gladston Joseph from Human Aerospace delivered a remarkable presentation full of innovative solutions.
Starting with the relatively limited battery life that most drones suffer from – the audience were treated to a demonstration of a drone that was highly automated, had an unlimited flight time and a high payload capacity - that really is pushing the boundaries of the technology.
Not content with one great solution, Human Aerospace showcased a concept drone that you slip your mobile phone into – making it one of the most cost effective drones on the planet. The final solution (in this presentation) was a fixed wing, long-range drone that had the capacity to accurately drop payloads at a remote location. Its potential use was a challenge given to the audience. One notable and creative suggestion was that it be used to deliver smart bombs to extinguished forest fires.
From Innovation the day moved onto the urban environment. London’s airspace is one of the most congested and complex areas in the world. It was privilege to have Gareth Sunmer from Transport for London (TFL) give an insight into Air Mobility within the urban airspace.
Highlighting the drone concepts already being developed in the dense urban environment and giving some valuable insights on some of the barriers that need to be address. How these concepts will be integrated with other transportation systems was extremely thought provoking and there is certainly a need to have TFL as part of the process. This presentation was backed by extensive research into the subject matter and it did not fail to impress. The call to have a “wider conversation and more practical demonstrations about drone activities” in the urban environment raised in the Q&A session resonated with us all.
Which naturally flowed into our next presentation, in regards to the road network. Highways England have given extensive consideration to the usage of drones and Stuart Greenshields guided us through a number of situations and scenarios where the technology is currently being used and where it could be eventually be deployed on the road network. This was a fascinating insight into the practical application of drones and their benefits – but with a timely reminder that despite the obvious advantageous of drone technology; it is not always the best solution for every situation. But as Stuart stated – as most of us are – “we are still in the discovery stage”. The plan to utilise organisations such as COMIT is very much part of the Highways England strategy. Another packed question and answer session followed.
Since 2003 COMIT has been at the forefront of bringing technology and construction together. The organisation is very good at using operational construction sites to prove and test technology. Mark Lawton, chief surveyor at Skanska, gave a fascinating insight into one such project with drones. “Its bigger than BIM” drew some scepticism from the audience - but Mark is a person who knows his stuff – and his articulated response quickly changed people’s minds. If you want to know what is bigger than BIM… well you will just have to join COMIT!
Our thanks go to the Bentley Institute and their team for hosting and their hospitality. If you want to find out more about the COMIT2Drones community, please visit our website.