Solving contractual disputes with drones

Drones hovering over and transmitting photos from building sites could in future play an important role in resolving disputes in construction contracts, says Uwe Putlitz, CEO of the Joint Building Contracts Committee (JBCC).

jbcc drone over building siteDrones taking aerial photos of building sites can provide visual proof to speed up the resolution of many disputes.

JBCC is a non-profit company that represents building owners and developers, professional consultants and general and specialist contractors who all provide input for the compilation of JBCC agreements (contracts) that portray the consensus view of the committee’s constituent members.

Putlitz says the advent of digital photography and incorporation of cameras in mobile phones in the past decade have already helped tremendously to show progress or identify potential problems on building sites.

“Smart phones have enabled parties involved with a building contract to obtain instant photo or video recordings, incorporating date and time – essential information to deal with disputes. But handheld or fixed cameras – however strategically positioned – can show only a preselected portion of a project, and their use is also open to manipulation. The development of remotely piloted aircraft systems (so-called drones) has totally removed all these limitations.”

Putlitz says drones – provided it is safe to use them in the location of a project – can show ‘hidden’ aspects of the works by flying over relatively inaccessible areas on site. The drones can even inspect adjacent properties to ensure that building materials have not dropped accidentally or have been dropped on it from cranes.

Says Pulitz, “Dispute resolution almost inevitably involves prolonged post-incident meetings with unproven claims delaying finalisation. Now, with drones in attendance, parties involved can table photographic evidence from an ‘eye in the sky’. Drones open up totally new dimensions to validify claims.

“In addition to a drone’s ability to measure building progress or spot defective work, the auto pilot systems can help health and safety officers to timeously identify unsafe work procedures – an urgently needed tool to improve safety on site which already has reached alarming low levels in South Africa,” Putlitz adds.

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