An aging construction workforce and a shortage of workers has some businesses looking to drones to help fill the gaps in Canada’s labour force, and help them do their work faster and with fewer people.
Construction companies across the country are using drones to map buildings, track inventory at worksites and help with infrastructure inspections.
BuildForce Canada, an organization that studies the construction industry and assembles long-term labour forecasts, said a quarter of the construction workforce is expected to retire between 2018 and 2027, necessitating the hiring of some 42,000 people by 2027.
“The labour shortage is definitely happening today. We have a huge number of projects that are going on, particularly in Ontario, B.C. and P.E.I.,” said Mary Van Buren, president of the Canadian Construction Association.
Van Buren said companies are struggling to find workers, because baby boomers are retiring and younger generations aren’t entering the industry.
She believes adopting drones and other technology could help attract young workers.
“Getting the message out to youth — particularly those graduating in science technology, engineering and math — that the industry is actually using technology and it can be a very exciting place to be [is key],” said Van Buren.
Drones can survey and map construction sites faster than work crews on the ground, freeing up labourers to do other jobs to speed up work using fewer people.
“What would have taken you two or three days of work, you can now get done in about 30 or 40 minutes,” said James Donaldson, a technology consultant with Sitech-Mid Canada Ltd., which provides construction technology to contractors.
Donaldson said that as the labour shortage becomes more pronounced, more of Sitech-Mid Canada’s clients are changing their view of drones.