Three Good Reasons For Using Construction Aerial Photography

By Loren Faulkner | September 28, 2010

Most days, Andrew Faukner and his wife Tam are teachers in Modesto, California. But give them an aerial construction site photo assignment and they are soon airborne in their Piper Cherokee Warrior just about anywhere within the Central Valley — as their schedules allow. Andrew is the pilot as Tam is the photographer on these missions for their company, Faukner Aerial Photography.

For the past four years the two have spent much time circling 1,000 to 2,000 feet above construction sites, photographing the progress of roads, commercial and private buildings, shoppin

View of a Central Valley construction site 2,000 feet up. Pilot Andrew Faukner banks 30 degrees left as wife Tam takes a photo. (Photo by Faukner Aerial Photography).

g centers, distribution centers, parking structures, refineries, and more. Faukner says contractors are surprised at the small expense of aerial photography as well as the benefits to them.

Lawsuits Avoided

"A Reno bridge project was under construction for year and a half," said Faukner. "A federal agency came in and told the contractor that his erosion control protection barricades were not in place at the proper time, and that they were going to fine him — thousands of dollars. But when aerial photographic proof showed the barricades were indeed in place, on time,the savings from not having to pay the fines, and/or a court challenge, were significant."

He also related an example of a construction worker who claimed he fell off a commercial building roof under construction because no safety barriers were in place at the time. When insurance investigators checked the time and date, aerial photos were brought in that showed safety barriers were in fact in place during the alleged incident. A fraudulent claim was averted, along with expensive legal costs that would have gone with that.

Subcontractor Kept "Honest"

In another example of how aerial photography has benefited contractors, Faukner related how a certain company near Antioch, California, had purchased loads of off-hauled in-fill dirt. They were promised that loads coming in to the work site would have an agreed-upon amount in each of the trailers. While looking at aerial photos of work site progress, the project manager saw that the trailers were only half full! Incoming trucks were then inspected more closely, and sure enough, the subcontractor had been shorting loads on his deliveries regularly, he said.

Progress Updated Often

"Most contractors prefer to have aerial photos once per month to monitor progress, but some more often than that," said Faukner. "Because of environmental issues, for example, they may request weekly photos, if there has been a lot of rain. They will be concerned about runoff getting into waterways and they want visual proof from a third party — not someone who works directly with the company; they want proof that all the barriers were in their proper places."

"I've found that it's important also to keep updating work progress to off-site partners separated by long distances," he said. "For example, we photographed an Ethanol refinery being constructed near Stockton. There were partners as far away as England. E-mailed aerial photos allowed updates on how their money was being spent on the project, its progress, etc. So when things were going a little slow one month, we were able to show the reason: It had rained a lot and our photo showed the water-logged, muddy site."

Real-time Logistics

Faukner said there are other uses for in-air photos. "Another client of ours is given large images that he then prints on his plotter to 4-foot by 4-foot-sized images that he places in his construction trailer. In this case it's a refinery. They have been able to show exactly where pre-fabricated equipment such as tanks and other equipment are to be installed or stored on site until needed."


The following information is from the website of Professional Aerial Photographers Association (PAPA)

Uses of Aerial Photography

An aerial photograph shows an overview of the land and property, and provides information not available at ground level. If time- and date-stamped, it becomes a valuable reference of ground conditions at the time. Here are just a few of the commercial applications of aerial photography today:

  • Archeology, environmental studies, erosion control
  • Aerial videos, time-lapse photography
  • Cartography, photogrammetry
  • Commercial real estate, residential real estate
  • Construction industry, project planning and tracking
  • Educational research, geography, oceanography, social studies
  • Engineers, industrial plants, production facilities
  • Government agencies, surveillance, monitoring
  • Landowners, building and facilities maintenance
  • Legal, forensic, property assessment, boundary disputes
  • Marketing, advertising, artistic
  • Ortho-rectified aerial maps, large mosaics
  • Safety planning, building and property maintenance
  • Surveyors, land use planners, municipal planners
  • Surveyors and census workers
  • Water utilization, freeway planning, safety planning