Remotely piloted aircraft systems

The future of asset inspection: aerial drone inspection

18/10/2018

As drone technology becomes more mainstream, drone inspection services for aerial building inspections are fast becoming a global reality. While pundits are focussed on ‘sexy’ applications for the technology – defence, film, Amazon deliveries – it’s the everyday applications we least expect that are most likely to have the greatest impact.

Globally, managing and maintaining valuable resources like buildings, bridges, railway networks, water catchments, agricultural properties and other infrastructure is crucial as assets age. Asset managers must regularly inspect properties to forestall faults, service interruptions, potential accidents and damage at a significant cost in terms of money and human hours. However, this cost and labour-intensive process has been revolutionised in recent years.

Drones are now confirmed as the future of asset inspection, promising to transform the building industry by making it quicker, safer and easier to survey critical infrastructure. Long-range, hybrid drones can now monitor properties up to 100km away, sending back live feed to asset managers and design teams containing essential data to help maintain, inspect and supervise buildings from afar.

Highly efficient, aerial drones can save businesses money and time sending out human inspectors and surveyors and – in the case of roof inspections – make the process much safer, too. Checks can be automated at the touch of a button, delivering serious cost efficiencies for clients while increasing available data exponentially through aerial photography and video.

Structural issues can be identified earlier and more accurately, leading to timely repairs at lower costs, rather than waiting until the problem is big enough to be noticed by the human eye. Sending out the drones can also prevent faults, interruptions to service or asset neglect – and will be invaluable in times of natural disaster when it is more dangerous to send in human inspectors, such as during/after floods, hurricanes and earthquakes.

Using GPS-assisted drones improves data quality as well – with high-definition imaging, 3D modelling and thermography capabilities vastly increased and more affordable, engineers can make better decisions remotely regarding the need for maintenance and repairs and discover hitherto unexpected ways to extend an assets usability or life.

For example, a recent aerial drone survey of Melbourne Water’s vast catchment areas uncovered a large number of issues in a relatively short amount of time, including cracking, shifting, surface degradation, weed encroachment and chipping. Repair staff could then be sent out to a precise location with the exact tools needed to effect maintenance before these issues could escalate.

Inspecting these assets manually would have put staff in harm's way, working at heights or near high voltage appliances, biological hazards and deep water, increasing the risk of injury. Employing the drone allowed managers to review the information at a safe distance and zoom in to assess issues in more detail. Plus, the resulting data was of higher quality and accuracy than could be gathered by human inspectors.

Similarly, drone building inspections can identify structural cracks, roof damage, problems with a high-rise building’s walls or maintenance issues in areas where it would be near impossible to reach for a human inspector without significant tools and safety harnesses. Given the greater efficiencies drone inspections convey, it’s no wonder they’re being hailed as an essential element of an asset managers toolkit.

Choosing the right drone operator is vital. Call us today to find out how drone roof inspections can save asset managers more.