4 Key Benefits of Using Aerial Cranes for General Contractors
A construction helicopter, or aerial crane, is a helicopter used in construction projects to transport cargo and lift heavy loads more quickly and efficiently. These versatile heavy-lift helicopters are an excellent alternative to traditional ground cranes, and many general contractors opt for aerial cranes when the demands of lifting are tough.
Aerial cranes have many practical uses on the job-site. Among their more common applications is the transport of hefty building materials such as steel, concrete, wood, and brick. They are often used to place rooftop units such as HVAC systems and chillers, as well as to set radio transmission towers and power transmission lines.
When a traditional ground crane can’t complete a job due to cost, inability to access a remote location, or difficulty performing in inclement weather or rough terrain, an aerial crane is most often the solution.
Here are 4 key benefits of using a construction helicopter on your next project.
Construction helicopters make better preliminary assessments on the job site.
Helicopters enable you to perform aerial surveys and hazard assessments prior to starting your project. These critical evaluations can help you spot potential problem areas that could plague your job with hefty expenses down the line.
Aerial cranes are often used to take photographs and create time-lapse video of structures as they’re being built. Up-to-date images allow you to better coordinate logistics and monitor site development, as well as to update stakeholders and investors about construction progress. Construction helicopters are also used to aid thermal imaging efforts to check the incongruity of pipelines and other underground structures.
Construction helicopters are also used routinely in the oil, gas, and petrochemical industries to monitor and inspect pipeline, ensuring that potentially catastrophic leaks and failures do not occur. Helicopter pipeline inspections are more efficient and less expensive than traditional means of performing surveys and assessments.
These helicopters are often used to:
Visually inspect natural gas, oil, and fuel pipelines
Observe changes in the area such as erosion, slope, or vegetation abnormalities
Note exposed pipes or missing signs or markers
Identify physical and chemical leaks and encroachment of elements that could pose a risk (before they become costly issues)
Use cameras, gyroscopic balanced binoculars, infrared sensors, and other advanced imaging technology to perform detailed aerial inspections
Aerial cranes offer increased mobility and precision.
Standard cranes have limited mobility and are challenging to maneuver when performing common installations on existing buildings, such as rooftop HVAC units, chillers, and ventilation.
Able to spin 360 degrees and hover over buildings and structures, construction and utility helicopters are far more agile than ground cranes. Large side windows and aerial views allow pilots to place heavy loads and equipment with a high level of precision, increasing the safety of external load operations and mitigating the risk of harm to nearby properties and crews.
Prized for their agility, the most frequent constriction helicopters employed by general contractors include:
Kaman K-Max K-1200, a single-engine, single-seat crane helicopter designed for the heaviest and most repetitive construction lifting job.
Maximum Weight Capacity: 12,000 pounds
Maximum External Load: 6,000 pounds
Maximum Speed: 100 knots (115 mph)
Maximum Range: 345 miles
Bell 205A-1++, a 9 passenger aerial crane designed for versatility in challenging environments
Maximum Weight Capacity: 10,000 pounds
Maximum External Load: 4,000 pounds
Maximum Speed: 120 knots (138 mph)
Maximum Range: 345 miles
Airbus AS-350 B3, a light, single-engine helicopter known for its diverse range, excellent visibility, and built-in maneuverability
Maximum Weight Capacity: 5,225 pounds
Maximum External Load: 3,200 pounds
Maximum Speed: 139 knots (160 mph)
Maximum Range: 345 miles
Construction helicopters mean simpler and more cost-effective setup and teardown.
Because aerial cranes require very little setup, construction helicopters avoid traffic jams and travel delays that may otherwise slow or halt your project.
Utility helicopters can access nearly any area. Many general contractors use them to reach high-traffic zones with few access points or to place heavy loads in remote or largely inaccessible areas, such as high rooftops, mountains, or hills.
This often means less preliminary work—like timber felling or the construction of approach roads—which allows contractors to reduce or entirely exclude certain auxiliary jobs from their construction process.
In addition, aerial cranes, unlike standard cranes, are developed to brave the elements and are better able to handle turbulent crosswinds and threatening environmental conditions. Construction helicopters and aerial cranes are equipped to perform just as consistently in potential hazards like:
Elevated atmospheric pressure
Rocky or mountainous terrain
Forests or swamps
Aerial cranes lift heavier loads faster
Light utility helicopters can typically lift between 1,200 and 4,000 pounds, while the world’s largest heavy-lift helicopter can transport up to 44,000 pounds. For most aerial construction projects, however, you’ll likely require a lift capacity between 2,000 and 6,000 pounds.
To give you an idea of the external lifting ability of various helicopters, here are the maximum external loads of 4 popular aerial cranes frequently chosen for heavy-lift and utility construction projects:
Kaman K-Max K-1200: Maximum External Load: 6,000 pounds
Bell 205A-1++: Maximum External Load: 4,000 pounds
Airbus AS-350 B3: Maximum External Load: 3,200 pounds
Bell 407HP: Maximum External Load: 2,500 pounds
The use of aerial crane helicopters is far more complex than simply lifting things and setting them down, and helicopters use a variety of load suspension systems, slings, nets, and hoist systems to get the job done.
How helicopters suspend the loads they’re tasked to carry is a crucial consideration, and when you work with a helicopter chartering company like Helicopter Express on your next utility or construction project, our experts will work with you to devise the best suspension system for your project’s needs.
Nevertheless, a number of suspension systems are commonly used by helicopters, including cargo hooks, single-point suspension systems, and multi-point suspension systems.
Aerial cranes are often used to hoist cargo, as well. While the first helicopter hoist systems were used by the U.S. Navy to rescue sailors from water, the utility of helicopter hoisting was quickly applied to utility and construction projects. Today, helicopter hoisting systems are routinely used to raise and lower cargo from a hovering helicopter.
Using cables wound around a hydraulic drum, helicopters usually employ capstan winches to increase the structural stability, efficiency and durability of hoist systems. Like most suspension systems, aerial crane hoisting can also employ single-point and multi-point hoist systems.
Contact Helicopter Express for all of your aerial crane needs.
Helicopter Express is staffed by experienced pilots and a diverse fleet of utility and construction helicopters, capable of lifting up to 10,000 pounds in an external load. Read more about which of our helicopters are best suited for aerial crane services, and learn more about the type of lifting projects our helicopters usually service.