DroneSim: a VR-based flight training simulator for drone-mediated building inspections

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Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering


Purpose: This study aims to explore DroneSim, a virtual reality (VR)-based flight training simulator, as an alternative for real-world drone-mediated building inspection training. Design/methodology/approach: Construction, engineering and management students were asked to pilot drones in the VR-based DroneSim space and perform common flight operations and inspection tasks within the spatiotemporal context of a building construction project. Another student group was also recruited and asked to perform a similar building inspection task in real world. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)-Task Load Index (TLX) survey was used to assess students’ inflight workload demand under both Real and DroneSim conditions. Post-assessment questionnaires were also used to analyze students’ feedback regarding the usability and presence of DroneSim for drone building inspection training. Findings: None of the NASA-TLX task load levels under real and DroneSim conditions were highly rated by students, and both groups experienced comparable drone-building inspection training. Students perceived DroneSim positively and found the VR experience stimulating. Originality/value: This study’s contribution is twofold: to better understand the development stages involved in the design of a VR-based drone flight training simulator, specifically for building inspection tasks; and to improve construction students’ drone operational and flight training skills by offering them the opportunity to enhance their drone navigation skills in a risk-free, repeatable yet realistic environment. Such contributions ultimately pave the way for better integration of drone-mediated building inspection training in construction education while meeting industry needs.

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Construction Innovation