The term “surveillance state” typically has not given people a warm, happy feeling. The idea of being watched from afar, in secret or from above, frequently is associated with oppressive governments or intrusive corporations.

Among instruments now being used to keep watch on people—whether they know it or not—are remote-controlled drones that glide above gatherings or neighborhoods with a camera in tow.

Our story “Getting within reach” illustrates that drones also have beneficial uses, with one of those tied directly to the demolition industry.

Few causes are more important than saving lives and preventing injuries, and it is a cause of particular interest to the demolition sector. That awareness spurred Alpine Demolition Services, St. Charles, Illinois, to deploy a drone outfitted with a camera to monitor its work site as it dismantled two 14-story apartment buildings in nearby Rockford.

Alpine Demolition Services’ Karsten Pawlik said the drone was used on the 2021 job “to survey each building as it was being demolished to make sure no unexpected structural failures were developing.”

Sudden collapses of or within structures at work sites have been a foremost blemish on the safety record of the demolition sector. Some such incidents occur in high-profile locations and cause several deaths and injuries, while others may claim a single life and be less widely reported.

At the start of this year, the Engineering-News Record (ENR) issued a report after it delved into records maintained by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). ENR concluded fatal demolition accidents, such as six that occurred in the first half of 2021, “happen out of public view [but] often involve premature collapses or losses of support.”

One of the busiest demolition sectors, involving dismantling retired coal-fired power plants, has yielded a series of accidents tied to suspended or “hung” boilers falling to the ground at a work site before the contractor had intended.

As detailed in a Construction & Demolition Recycling article from a year ago, boiler configurations vary widely, so the planning or ongoing scrutiny necessary during that process has no limits.

The aerial solution deployed by Alpine demonstrates the initiative a contractor can take to introduce additional safety measures to a job site. It is a proactive step that goes beyond reacting to mandates.

Neither OSHA nor the National Demolition Association make prominent references to drones on their main web pages devoted to demo safety. However, the technology’s frequent roles in surveying and assessing point to the potential for more contractors to look toward the sky.