Building a network of drone experts at Skanska

Did you know that the first unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) were developed during the first World War? Initially used for military operations, UAVs—or drones as we know them today—have transformed from a novelty technology to an integral tool that benefits various industries, including our construction operations.

Drones are an essential tool used during our construction operations.  

At Skanska, drones play a vital role in many aspects of our work, including monitoring construction progress, ensuring accurate and high-quality installations, inspecting hard-to-reach or hazardous areas, analyzing terrain, evaluating site logistics, and engaging our clients and communities with meaningful project updates.

This diverse set of aerial data offers real-time insights on site conditions, helps improve decision making, and leads to better project outcomes for our clients and partners.

As drone hardware, software and regulatory frameworks have advanced, our national Drone Network has been instrumental in driving the successful adoption of these cutting-edge tools.

Launched in 2015 in response to the FAA’s requirement for licensed drone pilots to perform any commercial missions, this group began with just two pilots.

Since then, our network has grown into a vibrant and diverse community of more than 70 members across Skanska USA’s business units, directly addressing the unique concerns and need of flying on active construction sites.

Currently, we have 50 active pilots operating 30 drones, which provide crucial support to safety, operations, preconstruction and marketing.

Our national Drone Network promotes a culture of inquiry and technological innovation.

At the heart of this network is our commitment to peer support, knowledge sharing, mentoring and community empowerment.

This approach ensures our existing pilots stay ahead of the curve on new innovations and encourages aspiring pilots to explore the potential of drones on their projects.

Our dedicated drone communication Microsoft Teams channel serves as a hub for enthusiasts across the company, leading to the exchange of best practices and techniques for capturing high-quality aerial footage and data.

This is complemented by our quarterly Drone Network meeting, which enables us to leverage our collective expertise.

The meeting features show-and-tell opportunities, creates a forum for open sharing of successes and failures from past flights, and provides updates on new FAA drone regulations, hardware, software and training requirements.

To further drive engagement, our annual drone photo contest has become a favorite of the group, creating a friendly rivalry and chance for all to participate and vote in the winner. 


Drone photo contest submission from our Astoria Middle School project in Astoria, Oregon.


Here are several examples that highlight the metamorphic impact drones are having on Skanska projects across the country:

Data collection and captured imagery in Oregon

Drone footage from Portland International Airport

After working through approvals with Portland International Airport (PDX) and FAA officials, Skanska has used drones throughout the ongoing $2 billion redevelopment of the PDX terminal.

This megaproject’s pinnacle piece is an innovative, nine-acre, curved timber roof sourced from local Douglas Fir.

To perfect the installation logistics of the 2,200-piece prefabricated roof and gather vital data, Skanska deploys drones on site, offering substantial value for the owner and construction team.

Drone-captured photos, videos and 3D models provide the project’s owner with detailed, real-time reports on the site’s progress and ensured the 18-million-pound roof fell within the 3/8th inch joint tolerance.

Site progress and marketing materials in Massachusetts


Construction progress on The Embrace sculpture in Boston, Massachusetts.


The Embrace, one of the largest memorials dedicated to civil rights and social justice, is located in America’s oldest public park, Boston Common.

The structure, sitting at 20 feet tall and 25 feet wide, is a 19-ton bronze sculpture that reflects the embrace shared by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, during his Nobel Peace Prize announcement in October 1964.

During construction, Skanska provided drone footage of this pro bono project to allow Embrace Boston to track progress during construction.

Once completed, Skanska’s drone footage was used to enhance the extensive media coverage the historic memorial received.

Status updates and project tracking in Washington

Just north of Seattle in Lynnwood, pilots from Skanska’s USA Civil group provided weekly updates on the Lynnwood Link Light Rail Extension L300 development, a $777 million public transportation project which will include parking garages, several miles of rail track, and dozens of bridges crossing over roads and interstates.

This project and the drone operations are truly unique.

As the jobsite is several miles long, it takes above average time and battery power for the drones to capture the project site in full, requiring extensive operational planning from our pilots.


Our Lynnwood Link Light Rail Extension L300 development.


Across town in the Belltown district of Seattle, Kaye is a new joint project between our USA Commercial Development and USA Building units.

Located in the heart of the city, Kaye will be a 31-story high-rise residential tower overlooking the Puget Sound.

This is a particularly challenging project to fly safely and demands caution and flexibility to be flown within the Part 107 rules.

Often, pilots will operate after the site has shut down for the evening to avoid flying over people while remaining at a safe elevation to avoid low flying birds.


Overlooking Kaye, a 260,000 square-foot multi-family tower located in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood.


Live monitoring during construction demolition in Virginia

While working on the UVA Alderman Library in Charlottesville, Skanska flew drones to capture live footage of the demolition works.

As crews were demolishing the existing building and spraying water to prevent excessive dust, our team flew a drone above the scene to ensure the work was being carried out safely and efficiently.

Most importantly, the team monitored this at a safe distance, ensuring the success of the project and safety of everyone onsite.

Facade inspections and soil stockpile calculation in North Carolina

Drones were used at our Wake Tech Community College Central Energy Plant project in Wake County.

Our team used drones to track progress of earth moving operations and calculate soil stockpiles to ensure there is enough soil onsite for future grading and building construction projects.

Additionally, at the Duke Health Bed Tower Addition Project in Durham, Skanska used a drone to collect video footage to inspect the façade of a new 13-story tower at Duke Hospital.

This helped the design team with their quality inspection.

Rather than using a swing stage, scaffold system or inspecting from the ground, drone-captured footage resulted in safer and more efficient inspections.

Each of these projects are examples of how drones have allowed us to provide our national project teams and clients with ongoing communication and logistic plans utilizing photos, videos, site maps, 3D mesh models and point clouds.

By using drones to produce this diverse set of data, rather than traditional aerial photography offered by third party vendors, we have saved time and money, and gained more detailed information and more frequent insights.

Our teams on the ground benefit from an up-to-date aerial perspective, allowing them to better assess, plan and perform work safely, while owners benefit from having a visual archive of construction throughout the life of the project, from existing conditions to final turnover.

At Skanska, we have the right tools and people to provide value for our teams and partners.

Our drone network is empowered by our access to cutting-edge software for flight planning, flying, processing and sharing.

As the market for drone hardware and software expands, Skanska’s national Drone Network will continue to leverage our collective knowledge-sharing and expertise to remain pioneers of innovation.