Drones are being used in €115m Bausch + Lomb expansion in Waterford

21 Jan 2016

Pictured from left: fourth year Architectural Technology & BIM students at WIT Gemma Murphy, Vivian Kenneally and Patrick Higgins with Paul Elliott, research assistant, Building Information Modelling Collective Research Group, WIT, Derek O`Connor, Facilities Engineering and Project Manager, Bausch + Lomb and Robin Stubbs - Course Leader, Architectural & BIM Technology, WIT

Aerial drones equipped with sophisticated cameras are being used for controlled flights over the €115m expansion of the Bausch + Lomb facility in Waterford as part of a pioneering new collaboration involving Waterford Institute of Technology’s (WIT) Department of Architecture.

The project is unique insofar as it is applying a burgeoning surveying technology in an innovative way to produce 3D models of the ongoing construction works for monitoring purposes.

Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) is pioneering all kinds of innovations in terms of machines and internet of things and, last year, it became the first college in Ireland to create an internet of things degree.

By completion of the project, more than 100 flights will have been undertaken, producing 9.36m HD images for processing

“The BIMC (Building Information Modelling Collective) research group are utilising unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV)/drones to conduct aerial photogrammetry surveys of the works as they progress,” said Robin Stubbs, programme leader of the BSc in Architecture and Building Information Modelling Technology at WIT.

“This entails regular site visits to conduct controlled flights using sophisticated drones and HD cameras and then supplying this information to Bausch + Lomb for use by their facilities management team that, in turn, assists them in their supervision of the ongoing works,” he said.

Worker drones

The innovative use of aerial photogrammetry and associated BIM technologies is just one part of “applied research” BIMC is undertaking and an example of the work WIT can work on with industry partners. Others include the use of Enterprise Ireland’s Innovation Voucher programme, which funds industry-academia projects.

“The work the research group undertakes with industry feeds directly into our undergraduate courses at WIT. This means our graduates who go on to work in the architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) sector can do so very successfully with the most relevant and up-to-date experience,” said Stubbs.

Derek O’Connor, facilities engineering and project manager at Bausch + Lomb, explained that the use of aerial footage so far has proven to be a very successful method of communicating the progress of the building expansions to senior management and external stakeholders.

“Using the advanced technology of unmanned aerial vehicles has developed into an important tool for monitoring the progress of the building works.

“A partnership between WIT and Bausch + Lomb Project Engineering has been developed and the results of this project can be used as a unique opportunity for students to gain an insight into the live application of cutting-edge technology in a locally-based multinational environment,” O’Connor said.

Updated 3.50pm, 21 January 2016: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that this was a €65m Bausch + Lomb expansion.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years