How Aggregates, Mining and Landfill Operations Create Local Jobs

Turn on any news station or pick up any newspaper, and employment features in nearly every story. Jobs have been an especially pressing issue since the 2009 recession, and even where the economy has rebounded, governments, companies and employees alike continue to focus on the expansion of job opportunities and career paths throughout the country.

While political opinions abound as to the best way government can stimulate job growth, on the ground, facts and statistics demonstrate that job creation is, as Nick Hanauer notes, not a product of rhetoric. Instead, job creation is the result of planning, management and strategizing.

Work will always exist as long as human beings need food, water, shelter and energy to survive. Where resources are allocated and how tasks are planned and carried out, however, have a direct impact on how many work-hours — and thus how many people — are needed to reach business goals.

Aggregates, mining and landfill operations all have one thing in common when it comes to jobs: They tend to employ a large number of people locally, and they tend to impact the employment of others further afield.

Here, we take a closer look at the ways in which these industries are leveraging the skills and abilities of local workers.

tow truck

Local Work, Local Jobs

The digital revolution has changed our relationship to work in a number of fields. Automation has led thinkers like David Autor to ask whether automation will replace human labor completely, while those like Andrew McAfee attempt to predict the ways in which “jobs of the future” will differ from the work we’re familiar with today.

Unlike many of the jobs created in the past 20 years, jobs in aggregates, mining and waste management are site-specific: A mine or stockpile cannot be uploaded to the Internet and accessed anywhere in the world the way a document or spreadsheet can. These operations exist where the resources and space exist.

These jobs have changed in recent years as a result of technology: drones, site mapping and GPS tools are just a few of the possibilities open to site managers and staff that simply did not exist in the previous century. The local, physical, site-specific nature of these jobs, however, remains the same.

Why do local jobs matter? Consider the following points:


Local Jobs Build Communities

Local jobs are also a great way to maintain communities across generations, since they allow workers to stay near families and offer needed support. The wide range of entry-level jobs available in mines and quarries, as noted by InfoMine, also helps build and maintain communities by giving workers viable options beyond leaving for college or the big city.

Because mining, aggregates and landfill operations create multiple off-site jobs for every job filled on site, these employers also help to stimulate local economies and businesses. Many of the tasks these operations need to outsource are tasks that are also site-specific, such as transportation and equipment maintenance. Further, employees need locally available things like food, notes Stacy Mitchell at Independent Business.


Onsite Work Improves Communication

As global communication has become easier, work teams in many industries have spread out. They’re working from home, on the road or any place other than the same worksite.

Remote work has certain advantages, particularly in fields where being off-site or away from the office is often required. It produces a wide range of challenges, however, and the jury is still out as to the best way to coordinate communication and innovation when your team isn’t in the same space.

Locally based operations like mines, quarries and landfills often don’t have this problem. When workers have to be on-site to get the job done, navigating the latest technology or synchronizing schedules to ensure you catch someone before they clock out in a different time zone becomes a non-issue — making teams easier to lead and improving cooperation, as Jonathan Farrington notes.


Entrepreneurship and Innovation are Collaborative, Hands-On Processes

Mines, quarries and landfills provide nearly endless opportunities for innovation and creative solutions to problems, particularly when it comes to efficient management of resources and supply chains. To achieve the best gains in this area, however, a cohesive, well-managed team needs to have the daily contact that makes it possible for them to rely on one another.

“Working effectively as part of a team is incredibly important for output quality, morale and retention,” notes Edmond Lau, an engineer at Quora. Effective communication is only part of the task; workers also need to be able to rely on one another and must trust that when they see a better way to do a task, their idea will be taken seriously. In such an environment, innovation can easily put a worksite ahead of its competitors — and such environments are easier to generate when employees live and work locally.

metal worker teaching trainee on machine use

Job Multipliers: How One Direct Job Creates More Indirect Jobs

Mining, aggregates and landfill operations all directly employ workers. Labor is an essential part of these operations’ success, and while technology has made work more efficient in some ways, in others it has increased the demand for higher-level thinking, strategizing and problem-solving in site staff.


Putting a Number to That Multiplier

Research indicates that every position filled at a worksite doesn’t just employ the person who fills it: it also creates demand for additional tasks, which require additional workers to address. In short, as Therese Dunphy notes at Aggregates Manager, these jobs create jobs.

A study released in March 2017 of the aggregates industry found that each aggregates industry job supports four more jobs, often in the local economy. The study examined the national, state and county-level impacts of aggregates operations. At every level, aggregates operations created and maintained not only the working positions needed to run the operation itself, but jobs in shipping, quality control and other related industries, according to George Ford, the author of the study.

Mining has similar effects on local economies. Analysts at Sunrise Coal, LLC, studying data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, estimate that coal mining creates an additional 3.88 jobs in the broader economy for every individual employed at the mine itself. Meanwhile, Reshoring Initiative founder Harry Moser estimates that mining hasn’t finished producing jobs yet: Faster permitting, he estimates, would allow mines to add another 125,000 direct jobs and reduce trade deficits.


The ‘Spillover’ Effect That Indirectly Creates Jobs

Every job mining produces also creates jobs indirectly related to the operation of the mine itself. According to a report by the Canada-based Mining Facts, mining’s stimulation of the demand for related goods and services, including equipment, maintenance and other services results in additional jobs within local communities. Their study indicated that mining’s “spillover” effect is higher than in many under industries, particularly in locations where mines outsource tasks like transportation or equipment repair.

When it comes to creating new jobs through innovation, however, landfill operations remain at the forefront. The “zero waste” movement, in which landfill deposits are recycled, has the potential to produce 1.1 million jobs directly related to these recycling operations, according to a report prepared for the Natural Resources Defense Council by James Goldstein.

“Recycling activity can create over 10 times more jobs than disposal in landfills,” notes Nancey Green Leigh, a Georgia Institute of Technology professor who focuses on city and regional planning. She advocates treating landfills not as an end point for waste, but as a resource for raw materials. The idea has some similarities to the ways in which mines and quarries produce raw materials, suggesting that the “jobs multiplier” from landfills might be similar if recycling were made a priority.

The labor-intensive nature of recycling makes it a natural job creator, since many work-hours are required to recycle effectively, according to Rick LeBlanc at The Balance. When recycling is considered more broadly to include tasks like reuse and resale, its jobs impact may be even higher, creating as many as 2.3 million jobs, according to Harmony Enterprises.

Landfills in many areas already serve as points for the production of one important raw material: methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is also the primary constituent of natural gas. A white paper from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) estimates that landfills are one of the largest sources of human-made methane on the planet, creating 17.7 percent of the country’s methane emissions. The EPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) works to help landfills create and sell electricity and natural gas from these emissions, stimulating jobs and helping to protect local and global ecosystems.

Images by: michaeljung/©123RF Stock Photo, taina/©123RF Stock Photo, goodluz/©123RF Stock Photo

Worksite Safety Experts to Know and Follow on LinkedIn and Twitter

Whether it’s operating heavy machinery, working on tall ladders or encountering hazardous material, working in construction poses countless safety risks. As a worksite manager, it’s critical to not only follow safety standards, but stay knowledgeable about the latest news and trends in worksite safety.

Luckily, there’s a large community of people dedicated to improving research and techniques in the field. From reporters and consultants to site managers and former workers, this list of safety experts will help keep all your employees safe on the job.


David Cant, Health and Safety Consultant, Veritas Consulting Safety Services

Where to follow: Linkedin, Twitter

Chartered health and safety consultant David Cant knows how to turn technical jargon into plain, simple language. With over 20 years of technical risk management expertise in the construction industry, Cant knows how to add value, productivity and safety to a worksite. Cant is also a worksite safety thought leader and his informative articles on employee safety, risk management and more can be found on his Linkedin page.


Sara Mojtehedzadeh, Workers Rights, Labor and Social Justice Reporter

Where to follow: Linkedin, Twitter

Sara Mojtehedzadeh is a work and labor safety reporter based in Toronto. She writes about research, laws, news and injustices involving the health and wealth of labor workers. While she primarily writes for the Toronto Star, her work covers safety issues involving American and even international companies.


Cliff Meidl, Motivational and Safety Speaker, Cliff Meidl Enterprises, LLC

Where to follow: Linkedin, Twitter

When a near-death construction accident left him electrical burns, exit wounds and major damage to his knees, Cliff Meidl had to struggle to walk again. With extensive rehabilitation and many surgeries, he regained full mobility and became a motivational speaker and expert on worksite health and safety. Having experienced such a horrific accident on a jobsite himself, Cliff Meidl knows more than most about the importance of health and safety.


Bruce A. DelGrasso, Health, Safety, Environmental and Quality Manager, Broadspectrum

Where to follow: Linkedin

Bruce A. DelGrasso has been a corporate safety manager for more than 15 years. Leading corporations like Vail Resorts, DelGrasso’s main focus has been on helping companies develop a culture of safety throughout all operations. Part of his work on overhauling corporate cultures includes promoting a “zero accident culture” while streamlining daily operations to make safety a normal and productivity-boosting aspect of business.


Crystal D.Turner, Director of Environmental Health & Safety, Haider Engineering PC

Where to follow: Linkedin

Crystal D. Turner is an experienced health and safety expert who specializes in heavy civil construction, construction oversight, OSHA training, industrial hygiene and more. With over 15 years of experience, Turner is well-versed in local, state and federal safety regulations. She’s also knowledgeable of safety procedures in governmental, laboratory, hospital, academic and manufacturing environments.


Louis Renner, Worker Safety Professional and Subject Matter Expert, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Where to follow: Linkedin

Louis Renner provides industrial safety solutions in the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. With a previous career advising safety professionals in the gas and electrical industries, Renner is knowledgeable about Motor Vehicle Safety, Work Area Protection, Automatic External Defibrillator programs and Cal-OSHA.


Jennifer Gollan, Investigative Worker Safety Reporter

Where to follow: Linkedin, Twitter

Jennifer Gollan is a writer for The Center for Investigative Reporting and Reveal news. Her work focuses on worker safety, mistreatment and corporate malfeasance, and her coverage of safety malpractice can give insight to anyone in the construction field. Gollan is the recipient of a national Emmy Award for her story “Deadly Oil Fields,” which reveals how energy companies mismanage worker deaths.


Christopher Hughes, Assistant Director of Occupational Safety, Northeastern University

Where to follow: Linkedin

Christopher Hughes has extensive experience in industrial hygiene, accident investigation, incident prevention and problem solving. He’s helped industries and organizations implement environmental health and safety programs and has managed employee training and interaction. He’s also been an environmental health and safety project manager, helping clients find gaps in OSHA compliance and review and evaluate workplace procedures.


Patrick W. Saltmarsh, Corporate Safety Director, J. Derenzo Companies

Where to follow: Linkedin

With professional experience in occupational health and safety, fire safety and accident prevention, Patrick W. Saltmarsh is an expert in safety compliance. At J. Derenzo Companies, a family of four environmental and construction companies, Saltmarsh works closely with environmental health managers to establish and maintain safety procedures.


Hector Dones, Associated Instructor, Construction Safety Council

Where to follow: Linkedin

Hector Dones is a construction safety professional and a teacher at Construction Safety Council, an organization that provides experiential safety education to adults in construction fields. Through an interactive classroom environment, Dones provides training in industry safety and regulatory compliance. He’s also experienced in operations management and works to implement a culture of safety at all levels of corporate projects.


Steve Duxbury, Safety Manager, Delta Diversified Enterprises, Inc.

Where to follow: Linkedin

Steve Duxbury is an environmental health and safety leader and a federal and state OSHA regulations expert. In addition to providing safety training, staff management and team building services, Duxbury also provides inspections. His audits help organizations understand areas of need and he outlines clear solutions that are lawful, compliant, and economical.


Abby Ferri, President, The Ferri Group LLC

Where to follow: Linkedin, Twitter

Abby Ferri has over 14 years of experience studying and consulting a wide range of industries on health and safety. As president of The Ferri Group LLC and an OSHA outreach trainer for construction, Ferri’s services include safety management, training services, risk control consulting and safety expertise. Ferri is also an adjunct Instructor in the Construction Management Program at Dunwoody College of Technology.


F. Marie Athey, Co-founder and Co-developer,

Where to follow: Linkedin

  1. Marie Athey is a 10 and 30-hour OSHA instructor with a passion for improving safety on the job. Conducting worksite audits, developing budgets and implementing revised safety plans all fall within Athey’s skill set. Athey is the co-founder and co-developer of, an organization that works to implement safety and training programs for companies in industries such as manufacturing, high power utility, heavy road construction, surface mining operations and more.


Andrew McKewen, Safety Trainer/Consultant, Service Safety

Where to follow: Linkedin

Andrew McKewen is co-owner of a construction safety firm that helps other construction companies train employees in safety issues, meet compliance regulations and develop various aspects of OSHA requirements. Service Safety specializes in employee orientation development, site specific safety planning, OSHA disputes, expert witnessing, accident investigation and more.


Rick Seifert, Safety Director, Construction Safety Experts, LLC

Where to follow: Linkedin

Rick Seifert specializes in safety plans and hazard prevention programs in the industrial, commercial and marine industries. As a proven accident and incident investigator, “Safety Man” Rick Seifert is an expert in identifying accident causes, finding possible risks and implementing safety plans. He’s also a safety educator and has experience guiding both workforce groups and management.


Stefan Mordue, Architect, Author & NBS Business Solutions Consultant, RIBA Enterprises Ltd

Where to follow: Linkedin, Twitter

Stefan Mordue is an architect and construction project manager based in the UK. The Business Information Modeling (BIM) expert is also the author of several books, including BIM for Construction Health and Safety. Mordue is passionate about incorporating health and safety procedures into BIM principles to reduce worksite-related injuries and deaths in the construction industry.


Doug Arthur, Owner/Trainer, Professional Safety Solutions, LLC

Where to follow: Linkedin

As a health and safety professional, Doug Arthur has over 30 years of experience providing safety guidance in the construction industry. Arthur is an expert at advising large, multi-location projects on health and safety regulations. His areas of expertise include construction safety, mining safety, safety training and education, compliance and more.


Ted Garling, Certified Safety Professional, ConocoPhilips

Where to follow: Linkedin

Ted Garling is a certified safety consultant and trainer with a Master of Education in Behavioral Based Safety & Emergency Planning. Garling’s educational background allows him to plan, document and deliver specialized training courses on all aspects of safety. He has a proven track record of leading departments through safe operations, emergency responses and compliance with rules and regulations.


Robert Layman, Principal, National Training and Safety Solutions, LLC

Where to follow: Linkedin

Also known as “Safety Bob,” Robert Layman is the owner at National Training and Safety Solutions, LLC. Layman’s company develops health and safety training and programs to companies in the Tampa, Florida area. Layman also assists companies with OSHA recordkeeping compliance and provides risk management guidance.


Clifford Wilcox, Safety Manager and CVS Specialist, Advanced Safety Pros Corp.

Where to follow: Linkedin

Clifford Wilcox has guided and trained thousands of companies in risk management, safety culture and compliance. Wilcox also has experience negotiating mergers and acquisitions, and he’s created a number of safety materials including manuals, training courses, workers compensation claims resolutions and more. He’s also a health and safety thought leader and regularly publishes helpful industry articles on Linkedin.

Images by: Yerson Retamal, memyselfaneye

Commercial Drones: 23 Experts to Follow for News and Insights

Between the constant exploration of regulatory boundaries and the near-constant introduction of innovative technologies, the world of commercial drones features a landscape that evolves quickly.

That means anyone who is currently using a drone to do business — or anyone thinking of doing so — faces some enormous informational hurdles. How do you keep track of evolving legislation and new technology?

By following the right industry insiders.

These are the 23 people and publications you will want to follow on Twitter to get up to speed quickly.


Sally French, @TheDroneGirl

Sally French has a blog, The Drone Girl, that serves as an excellent starting point for both hobbyists and commercial UAV pilots. She knows the drone industry very well, and her Twitter feed is a reliable source for news and industry trends.


Diana Marina Cooper, @Diana_M_Cooper

Diana Marina Cooper is PrecisionHawk’s senior vice president of policy and strategy, so she is on the ground every day in Washington working to communicate and influence industry regulations. Follow her for up-to-date news from the FAA plus intel on heavy-industry drone applications.


Gary Mortimer, @sUASnews

Gary Mortimer is the founder and editor at sUAS News, a site that has been reporting on small, unmanned aerial systems since 2008. Mortimer and the team’s other writers are all pilots and industry professionals, and the site’s Twitter feed is among the best information resources you will find in the commercial drone space.


Romeo Durscher, @romeoch

Romeo Durscher is the director of education at DJI, which means his job involves teach organizations and industries the best ways to apply drone technologies effectively and safely. Follow him for news, industry insights and a big-picture perspective on commercial UAVs.


Colin Snow, @droneanalyst

Colin Snow is the founder and CEO of Skylogic Research, which helps startups understand industry trends and the regulatory environment surrounding the use of drones. Follow him for some of the most thoughtful analyses of the commercial drone markets.


Droneblog, @droneblog

Droneblog is an excellent news source for both commercial and hobbyist pilots. Its Twitter feed is good about quickly posting any new articles the site publishes, plus relevant news stories from across the web.


Randy Goers, @DroneRadioShow

Randy Goers hosts the weekly Drone Radio Show podcast, which seeks to showcase the various opportunities UAVs present to a variety of industries. Goers is a city planner and strategist. Follow for podcast updates and industry news.


DroneLife, @Drone_Life

DroneLife is a blog that covers commercial and consumer news, but it has a special focus on construction and agricultural applications. Follow for the blog’s unique coverage of those particular sectors.



UAS Law Blog, @UAS_Law

The team at law office Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman have created a blog specifically for drone regulations where they can share news and their own insights. Follow UAS Law Blog on Twitter to keep up with their posts plus the additional research they share.


Brendan Schulman, @dronelaws

Another excellent legal source is Brendan Schulman, the vice president of policy and legal affairs at DJI. Follow him for the latest guidance and news out of Washington, plus relevant industry news he finds elsewhere.


Jonathan Rupprecht, @jonathanruppre

Jonathan Rupprecht is one of the top private-practice attorneys in the country to specialize in the rules and regulations that pertain to drones. Follow him for legal news plus tips on to get any certification you or your team might require.


Peter Sachs, @TheDroneGuy

Peter Sachs is the author of the Drone Law Journal and is an important advocate for industry drone operators because of his work in pushing back against many FAA regulations that he feels are overreaching in their scope. Follow for legal news and a healthy dose of mainstream media fact-checking.


Drone360, @Drone360mag

Drone360 is a magazine for both hobbyist and commercial operators that does a nice job of covering everything from regulations to news to everyday tips (e.g. how to travel with a drone). Follow for a regular feed of the magazine’s own pieces, plus occasional news from elsewhere on the web.


Helen Greiner, @helengreiner

Helen Greiner is a serial entrepreneur — her companies include iRobot and CyPhyWorks — who has spent her career working with robotics. Follow her to get a glimpse of a future powered by robotics, from drones to self-driving vehicles to automated delivery services.


Jonathan Evans, @jwce21

Jonathan Evans is the co-president at drone operations management software company Skyward and the president of Global UTM, a Swiss nonprofit that works to integrate UAVs into national airspaces. Follow him for glimpses into the future of unmanned aerial flying.



Greg McNeal, @GregoryMcNeal

Greg McNeal is a professor of law and public policy at Pepperdine University and co-founder of AirMap, a provider of UTM technology that allows for air traffic management of low-altitude drones. Follow him for thoughtful insights into where cutting-edge technology intersects with regulations and security best practices.


Gretchen West, @gawherry

Gretchen West is a senior advisor at the Hogan Lovells law firm in Silicon Valley, and she is the co-executive director of the Commercial Drone Alliance. Follow her for insights into the entire spectrum of robotic vehicles, and their commercial applications.


Iain Butler, @theUAVguy

Iain Butler, Ph.D., is an EVP at hearing aid manufacturer Eargo, and he has been involved in the multirotor UAV community for years. He also has a company, Kextrel LLC, that provides aerial measurement and photography services, plus custom drone builds. Follow him for trends and industry news.


Unmanned Experts, @UnmannedExpert1

Unmanned Experts provide railroad and transport infrastructure inspections via drone, and the team also consults and trains other organizations on how to deploy drones. Follow them for unique insights into the transport sector.


Ian Smith, @SkyCapture

Ian Smith hosts the Commercial Drones FM podcast and works for UAV operations software provider DroneDeploy. Smith also hosts a commercial drone operators Slack group. Follow him for podcast updates plus thoughtful industry insights.


Drone Center, @DroneCenter

Drone Center tweets on behalf of the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College in New York, where students and researchers conduct in-depth studies into the challenges and opportunities of applying UAV technology in the public and private spheres. Follow for updates on the thoughtful, original research the center is doing.


Paige Mitts, @DroneOnUASUAV

Paige Mitts is an aerial photographer who specializes in bigger properties (e.g. hotels and hospitals). She also stays up to date on commercial UAV news, and she passes along important news and insights via Twitter.


Women and Drones, @WomenandDrones

Women and Drones is a blog that spotlights great work by women in UAV industries, as well as STEAM programs that work to get more women involved in scientific careers. Follow them for news as well as frequent shoutouts to the women who are doing important work in the field.

images by: Kevin Chow, Alex Bagirov, 贝莉儿 NG

8 Frontiers Where Drones Are Rapidly Changing Heavy Industry

As our new Chief Drone Office Andrew Maximow pointed out, the advent of two-click autonomous flight for drones “was really the watershed moment” that brought drones out of the hobbyist realm and into big industry.

Only a few years in, we are seeing some truly revolutionary applications of drone technology in industries such as facilities management, and oil and gas — not to mention construction, mining and solid waste.

Here are eight broad areas that are reaping the benefits of this business transformation today.


Securing Oil and Gas Pipelines

Drones are particularly welcome in industries such as oil and gas, where hundreds of miles of pipelines demand regular inspection to prevent leakages (or worse).

This has long been an expensive task. “Before drones, inspecting miles of pipelines was done by helicopter, truck, and on-foot for remote areas,” the team at EnergyHQ writes. “And while some inspections still require up-close review from an expert, drones are equipped with new tech to detect and deter potential leaks or methane emissions. Plus, instead of sending out a crew to inspect a remote location, drone surveys are also safer.”

That was an important point for Gail India, a state-owned gas transporter in India. In 2014, there was an accident at one of Gail’s pipelines in Andhra Pradesh that killed 18 people, and the company faced intense pressure to shore the safety of its pipelines.

In April of 2016, it began testing out drone surveillance on a pilot basis on a 200-kilometer stretch of pipeline in the north of the country.

And back in the States, the booming fracking industry has its hands full with its own safety concerns. In response, Physical Sciences, Inc. has been developing a drone specifically for this industry to examine pipelines and identify whether gas pipelines are leaking methane.


Thermal Imaging to Spot Problems in Built Environments

With UAVs that can conceivably surveil every square inch of a building’s interior or exterior, you have the ability to get real visibility into where you think warm air is leaking (and driving up energy costs, much to the chagrin of facilities managers and building owners everywhere).

In October, Facilities Management Journal discussed how UK-based FM services provider Mitie had begun to incorporate drones into its thermal imaging toolbox. The applications could be crucial to facilities and worksite managers, who would be able to use Mitie’s Inspire 1 drones to

  • perform building inspections,
  • look for potentially flammable spots in landfills,
  • and even spot bird nests in sensitive places.

The Inspire 1 can also help create thermal maps of a facility so it’s easy to spot any areas that require additional insulation.


Mapping Sites and Tracts of Land

The team at Kespry has been making huge advances with two-click autonomous flying, to the point that deploying one of its drones requires almost no effort.

Wayne Grayson has a piece on Kespry’s Drones 2.0 at Equipment World that demonstrates how easy it is to use one of these devices for mapping even sizable areas:

“After opening up the package, you call Kespry and speak to a customer service representative for about an hour as part of the initial setup process,” he writes. “When you’re ready to start mapping, you open the Kespry iPad app, draw an outline around the site you want mapped on the screen, drag a slider to the height you want the imagery taken from and launch the drone.

“That’s it. From there, the drone takes off, maps the site and lands in the exact spot it took off from. During flight, an on-board LiDAR sensor automatically detects and avoids obstacles like trees, cranes, and buildings.”

Afterward, the drone returns, connects to WiFi and uploads the images for you. Kespry has software, then, that will render a 3D model for you.

The speed of innovation, however, might be a little unwieldy for area managers and site managers (and surveyors themselves), who have enough on their plates to keep up with drone technology that takes a great leap forward every six months or so.

“It’s very possible many surveyors would rather hire a service provider to collect data than invest in a tool that can be obsolete is as little as six months,” writes Colin Snow, CEO and co-founder of Skylogic Research. “They may also consider short-term leases to ensure their technology is relatively current or just rent a drone when needed.

“Regardless of how small drones fit into the workflow, they will not only affect the industry, but they will also create new opportunities for independent contractors who, based on their experience, may be able to fly and collect data less expensively than surveyors.”


Improving Visibility and Communications Along Rail Lines

Interestingly, there is a killer app possibility in the world of railroads, both with freight and with commuter trains.

For one thing, train companies have the same problems as oil and gas companies: Miles of infrastructure that need constant monitoring. BNSF Railway moved quickly to employ drones in that kind of work. As journalist Thomas Black reports, the railroad company began flying its drones 150 miles in the sky to both monitor its tracks and to help the FAA understand regulatory challenges of letting drone operators fly the craft outside of their lines of sight.

But even passengers on the trains are finding drones helpful. As the team at Railway Innovation points out, some companies (and even the UK government) are testing how useful it would be to have drones follow along behind a train to boost in-car WiFi connectivity.

“Passengers are often frustrated by intermittent phone and WiFi access on the train,” the piece notes. “This is a real issue for customer satisfaction in the railway industry. The problem of tunnels and long stretches of rail through remote regions make internet connectivity a serious challenge.”


Securing and Surveilling Worksites

Then, of course, there is security itself, which can be a huge challenge at worksites and in built environments. A few startups have begun building drones to help solve those problems.

One such company is Aptonomy. It builds drones that essentially function as security guards to ward off intruders — and to keep human security professionals out of harm’s way, potentially.

MIT Technology Review’s Tom Simonite explores how this would work: “When on duty, an Aptonomy drone will be programmed to patrol a set area automatically, and use its onboard cameras to spot and approach any person entering who shouldn’t be. The drone would flash its warning lights, light the person with its spotlight and deliver a canned warning to retreat. A security guard in a control center would be notified, and the guard could take control of the drone and speak through it.”

Another drone-based security company, Pixiel Security, earned an award at the Expoprotection trade show in 2016 for its NeoSafe drone solution, which sends one or more drones out to spot intruders with mounted cameras, then notify site managers via an alarm.


Monitoring and Protecting a Worksite’s Wild Neighbors

Every worksite has neighbors that will be affected by the work being done, and it’s important to protect those neighbors who don’t have a way to speak up for themselves when ground is broken and machines move in.

With drones, it becomes relatively easy to monitor the populations of animals and other wildlife adjacent to a site. Drones are already being used to monitor and inspect all kinds of wildlife populations to gauge their wellbeing.

As Alissa Crane writes at, organizations are using drones to identify different animal species, track poachers and even assess the health of the plants in a forest. Deploying this same technology can help companies ensure they aren’t encroaching upon especially delicate environments, and they can measure objectively the health of their wild neighbors before, during and after a project.

Oh, and the B-roll makes for entertaining videos:


Monitoring a Community’s Energy-Delivery Infrastructure

As with railroads and pipelines, the infrastructure that makes a power grid requires continuous monitoring — and the ability to react instantly should something go wrong.

Again, let’s take the story to India, via the Bay Area. As Palo Alto’s Sharper Shape reported in August 2016, it had begun working with Indian power transmission company Sterlite Power to provide automated utility asset inspections.

“India has a power transmission network of more than a million circuit kilometers which is undergoing double-digit growth annually,” Sharper Shape’s team points out. “The use of drones will increase the uptime of the grid, reduce transmission tariffs, avoid grid blackouts, and also save the environment by reducing deforestation along the line corridors.”

Then, there are the power plants themselves. At a coal plant, for example, monitoring the equipment is more self-contained, but on a wind farm, where assets are distributed across a wide area, monitoring all of the machinery is difficult unless you have some reliable drones.

In February, the U.S. Department of Energy featured one Michigan company, SkySpecs, for that company’s ability to pancake the time it takes to monitor wind turbines. “Historically, inspections have been time consuming and expensive,” the DOE’s Michele Capots writes.

“While preventative maintenance has become a standard practice (rather than reactively waiting for problems to arise before fixing them), effective proactive maintenance requires large amounts of data. Today, SkySpecs inspections take less than 15 minutes — and they can conduct as many as 17 inspections in one day. That’s currently faster than any other inspection company in the industry.”


Capturing Time-Lapse Footage of Construction Projects

A lot of people get into the construction business simply because it’s so gratifying to build something. There aren’t many other industries in which you can step back from a finished 10-story building and say, “I helped build that.”

Clayco understands this, and its team had the foresight to film its construction of the Zurich Insurance Group’s North American headquarters:

LIFT Drone Timelapse Video from Clayco on Vimeo

images by: ©cozyta/123RF Stock Photo, Martin Wessely, Jason Blackeye