Technology

Japanese government to use drones and AI to raise construction efficiency

14 September 2016 | By Tom Ravenscroft

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has unveiled a campaign to utilise emerging technologies, including drones and artificial intelligence, to increase productivity at construction sites by 20% by 2025.

According to Japanese newspaper The Japan Times, Abe announced the plan at the inaugural meeting of a think tank tasked with formulating new growth strategy policies. The panel of government officials and industry experts is expected to announce details of the construction productivity strategy before the end of 2017.

The government intends to ramp up the use of drones and AI to increase the efficiency of surveys on centrally funded infrastructure projects, such as tunnels, bridges and dams.

Faced with an ageing population, Japan is already leading the world in advancing the use of autonomous vehicles, with construction drones set to be used to automate groundworks for the 2020 Olympic games.

Japan’s plan is part of a growing trend for use of drones in the construction industry. Last week a survey showed that construction companies in the UK are adopting drones faster than any other sector. While earlier in the summer academics at US universities Northeastern in Boston and Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh revealed they were developing a flying robot that can automatically inspect, analyse and assess damage to infrastructure.

At the meeting Abe vowed to dramatically change the construction working environment and get rid of its image of being dangerous and dirty. He was quoted in The Japan Times as saying: “We will shed light on impediments to employing the remarkable technological innovations of recent years in people’s lives and society, and push forward with reforms.”

Potentially the think tank may recommend giving tax breaks and financial support to regional public works projects and SME construction companies that invest and utilise new technologies.

We will shed light on impediments to employing the remarkable technological innovations of recent years in people’s lives and society, and push forward with reforms– Shinzo Abe