Oct 04, 2019

What Are Helicopter Cranes Typically Used For?

What Are Helicopter Cranes Typically Used For?

When it comes to choosing equipment for your heavy-lift construction project, consider that helicopter cranes are typically faster and more precise than traditional ground cranes. That’s because they’re able to maneuver in tighter spaces, access harder-to-reach locations, and perform in all types of weather and terrain.

But what are helicopter cranes, exactly? And what are they typically used for?

Helicopter cranes (also known as “aerial cranes” or “sky cranes”) are construction helicopters that use rigging devices such as cables and slings to lift heavy loads and transport cargo more efficiently. They are most often used for transportation of hefty materials, rooftop unit installations, and utility construction projects.

Read on to learn more about the various uses of aerial cranes and discover how helicopter construction services can help you complete your next job more safely, quickly, and accurately.

Construction helicopter performing a heavy-lift job over a forest.

1. Lifting and transporting heavy cargo and construction materials

Helicopter cranes are a fantastic option for heavy lifting and transportation of machinery and other hefty building materials, including:

That’s because aerial cranes require virtually no setup, and hooking up cargo transport is relatively quick and easy. Your helicopter lifting company will select the perfect helicopter to provide the external load capacity necessary for your job.

The team assigned to your project will also design your heavy lifting plan. Your project coordinators will take into consideration key factors like:

Helicopter cranes also allow you to move rig components and heavy equipment much faster. That’s because you’ll no longer need to transport materials and other cargo and equipment by truck. This means much larger loads, less frequent changeover, and less time spent hauling cargo back and forth.

And did you know that utility and construction helicopters can lift an average of 2,000 to 10,000 pounds? If you’re interested in learning more about heavy-lift helicopters’ external load capacities, check out our article titled “How Much Weight Can a Construction Helicopter Lift?”

Rooftop HVAC units resting on top of skyscrapers in the city.

2. Installing, replacing, and removing rooftop units

Many construction companies use crane helicopters for the precise installation, replacement, or removal of commercial HVAC units, rooftop chillers, ventilation systems, and adapter curbs.

Traditional ground cranes are not a viable (or affordable) option for unit placement on very tall buildings, buildings in remote locations, and those with high square footage. Aerial crane companies employ only the most experienced pilots with the necessary skills and expertise required to place HVAC and other systems more quickly and accurately. In fact, many rooftop installation and removal jobs only take 1-2 hours with a helicopter crane.

Because helicopters are able to spin 360 degrees, hover over buildings and other structures, and maneuver in tighter spaces, they’re much more efficient for projects in big cities or mountainous terrain (and there’s no need for approach roads!).

Plus, there’s no potential for traffic delays or destruction of surrounding landscapes–both of which are a strong possibility with a standard ground crane.

3. Utility construction projects

Helicopter crane services can be utilized for all types of utility construction projects, from power line construction and repair to natural gas line construction. In this section, we’ll highlight the different facets of utility construction that are well suited to the capabilities of heavy-lift helicopters.

Power line construction and repair

You can use a helicopter crane to transport the heavy machinery required for power line construction or repair, or to move heavy building materials such as pallets and concrete. Aerial cranes can also assist you in placing pipe sections and weights.

Three power lines stretching toward the sky at sunset.

Pipeline construction and repair

Traditional means of transporting pipeline can be costly and slow. Aerial crane helicopters, on the other hand, are capable of hauling huge pieces of pipeline in less than half the time. These cranes are an invaluable tool when it comes to pouring foundation, placing monopole and lattice structures, and transporting machinery and materials like concrete and pallets.

Cell tower and radio transmission tower setting

Helicopter cranes can be used to set heavy pipe sections and pipe weights for cell towers and radio transmission towers. And because utility helicopters can hover, they’re the practical choice for installing towers in dense forests and other hard-to-reach locations.

Transmission tower set by a helicopter crane in a dense forest next to a lake.

Transportation and placement of water systems

Aerial cranes are a viable means of moving and placing heavy hydro systems, septic tanks, and water tanks more efficiently.

Oil and gas transportation

You can also hire a heavy-lift helicopter company to provide aerial transportation of energy resources (coal, oil, and natural gas), heavy cargo and equipment, and even personnel to offshore rigs, outstations, and energy production bases.

Say your offshore drilling site needs replacement parts for aircraft, boats, and other vehicles. Or maybe your rig requires urgent repairs and renovations. A helicopter crane can assist you in delivering this heavy cargo and bulky machinery to your production base.

One benefit of aerial cranes is that they enable you to move rig components more quickly and place loads more precisely than traditional means. This reduces downtime and ensures no money is lost as a result of delays in the production process.

Aerial cranes can also help you:

4. Forestry operations and restoration

Helicopter cranes can be invaluable tools in forestry operations–like logging–and in the improvement and restoration of vital habitats such as forests and streams.

Habitat restoration via placement of trees and other objects

Helicopters can assist you in placing root wads, logs, and even boulders into flowing waters, such as creeks and streams, to help you restore them to their former glory.

Helicopter logging

Also known as “heli-logging,” helicopter logging is a method of logging that uses aerial cranes and their attached cables to lift and remove cut trees from forests. How? Helicopter cranes first grapple the trees’ partially cut stems, and then pull up until the wood breaks. Your helicopter pilot will then take the logged trees to your designated dropoff location.

A pile of logs in a forest clearing following helicopter logging efforts.

Another benefit: heli-logging is far cleaner on the environment than other means of logging, as helicopters reduce the level of infrastructure required to log in largely inaccessible forested areas.

Here’s an example of heli-logging using a Boeing CH 234 Chinook helicopter:

5. Ski lift installation

You can also hire a helicopter lifting company to aid in your ski lift construction project. You can use aerial cranes to fly in the towers, rigging equipment, and cross arms required to build your lift.

But before you fly in parts, you must first lay the foundation for your lift towers. Lift towers for ski lifts are approximately 30 feet high, and each footing requires anywhere from 10 to 15 yards of concrete.

A helicopter crane can pour approximately 100 to 130 yards of concrete a day, therefore significantly speeding up your project’s time frame. If you were to use concrete trucks to pour 130 yards of concrete, you’d need roughly 13 of them!

Interested in learning more? Watch how ski lifts are installed via helicopter crane:

No matter the challenge your construction project presents, Helicopter Express is here to help. Learn more about our helicopter crane services or read about our 24-helicopter fleet. You can also contact us to request a quote!

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