Hover Solutions

Hover SolutionsHover Solutions integrates drone technology into construction.

By Kat Zeman, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Media

Seeing them fly over and hover above construction sites used to be a rare sight. But drones are quickly becoming a familiar construction tool that is transforming the industry. 

Armed with high-resolution cameras, multispectral sensors and the capacity for thermal detection, these small aircraft can accomplish amazing deeds in a short amount of time. Hover Solutions info box

Zipping over job sites at speeds up to 60 miles per hour, drones can monitor site progress, inspect structures, map out land and create accurate 3-D models for contours, elevations, and volumetric and linear measurements. 

The images that drones gather can be monitored on a live feed and saved to an SD memory card. They can then be used to create 3-D reconstructions of land, buildings, vehicles and structures. Using purpose-built software, this can be done on-site only a short time after the flight. “We are here to help construction companies fully harness the power of drones,” says Stuart Showalter, CEO of Hover Solutions

Rockville, Md.-based Hover Solutions specializes in aerial imaging and drone services. Founded in 2015 by Showalter and his oldest son, Nathanael Showalter, the company is seeing an increased need for its services in the construction industry. 

“A few years ago, drones were a radically new technology breaking into civilian industries and I found that fascinating,” Showalter says. “I mean, drones are computers that fly. How cool is that? But now, established industries like construction and inspection are beginning to realize how much they can do.” 

Meet The Drones 

It’s small, fast and impressive. Known as a “racing drone,” it can fly at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour. Its mission: test airspace security systems by flying past motion detectors to determine how well they detect small drones.

But the drones that Hover Solutions deploys most often come from the DJI Inspire and Phantom Pro series. They weigh between 5 and 8 pounds and measure roughly 24 inches from wingtip to wingtip. 

“Our Phantom 4 Pro has a 20-megapixel camera that can do mapping, inspections and video production work,” Showalter says. “The Inspire 2 has more options for professional video work. We can also add different lenses so that we can inspect details of cell towers and other high structures without flying too close.”

That’s another benefit of drones. They can reach high-risk areas and squeeze into tight locations that are hard to reach for a human crew. 

Hover Solutions typically uses the Phantom and Inspire series drones, but its fleet contains drones of various sizes and designs that can perform a wide variety of tasks.  

The largest drone that Hover Solutions owns is a fixed-wing drone. It measures 6 feet from wingtip to wingtip and resembles a large model airplane. It is generally used for mapping because its design allows it to fly longer and cover more area than a multi-rotor drone. 

Reporting Progress  

Drones can also be very useful for roof inspections. Hover Solutions recently used one of its drones – equipped with a thermal imaging camera – to inspect the roofs of 22 buildings at a retirement center.

“Your eye can’t see the changes in the roof structure, what’s under the surface and it can’t see air leaks,” Showalter says. “The drone can detect if water is being retained under the roofing material and if air is leaking somewhere by revealing the differences in the roof’s temperature.” 

If the retirement center hired someone to physically inspect all 22 rooftops, it would probably take about three to four days, he adds. “We were able to get detailed thermal images of every roof surface in five hours and it didn’t involve putting a person on a single roof,” he says.  

Drones can also be a useful tool for project managers that have to report their progress to investors. Using photography and/or video footage, drones can provide regular progress reports on a project. “We can put a drone in the same place in the sky every week to monitor progress,” Showalter says. 

In addition, drones can gather information for sales and marketing purposes. “If you’re building a high-rise building or hotel and you’re trying to sell the view, we can take a drone and fly it to where that window would be and show people what kind of a view they will have,” he adds. 

Legal Matters 

Anyone can buy a drone and learn to fly it. But there are certain legal and safety issues to consider. “We’re not just guys who buy them off the shelf and go fly them,” Showalter says. 

Hover Solutions employs FAA-licensed pilots that understand the issues of flying drones in the sky with other aircraft. “We bring experience, legal knowledge and safe operations to table – not everyone can do that,” Showalter says. “Plus, we understand the greater Washington, D.C., area. We know this area and have permission to fly our drones in controlled zones near all the major airports.” 

Aside from Washington, D.C., Hover Solutions operates throughout Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. 

Although drones are technically capable of ascending thousands of feet into the sky, the legal limit is 400 feet above ground or up to 400 feet above the highest part of a building or obstacle being surveyed. “But there are additional issues to be aware of if you’re flying in controlled airspace near airports,” Showalter says.

In the past, getting a bird’s eye view of a project required employing helicopters or other aircraft – a very expensive solution that’s not always available on-demand. Drones can do the job for a fraction of the cost at very short notice. 

When approached by a new client, Hover Solutions evaluates each individual client’s situation and tailors its services to the client’s budget and needs. Its prices include the advanced planning work needed to ensure safe operations at a specific site. This means airspace assessments, contacting site authorities when necessary and equipment maintenance. 

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