Drones are being used for a variety of purposes, and drone inspections are now being performed in every industry where visual inspection are required as a part of maintenance procedures. In using drones to collect visual data on the condition of an asset, drones help to prevent inspectors having to put themselves in dangerous situations.
What are visual inspections and why are they crucial?
A visual inspection, simply defined, is what the name suggests, a careful and thorough review with the naked eye of each part of an asset. In most instances, drone inspections will involve a visual inspection where the drone’s camera will act as the eyes of the inspector.
The drone collects visual data, and it can be reviewed at a later stage by the inspector. Some reviews happen on the spot as well. Visual inspections are crucial in ensuring that there is adequate and effective maintenance on assets.
Visual inspections not only save money, but can save lives.
Infrastructure inspections can include, but is not limited to bridges, pipelines, electrical grids, and several other facilities. Inspections on these are crucial for structure usage as well as safety. It is a costly, time consuming, and dangerous task, however, UAV solutions are changing the status quo rapidly.
UAVs, or drones, are becoming an integral part of infrastructure inspection practices around the world. Professional drones used in these types of inspections are agile, cost-effective, and they can perform tasks which are too dangerous for humans.
The inspections on tall structures such as electric towers and wind turbines have become easier and safer with the use of drones instead of having workers climbing up these potentially unstable structures.
The added value that drones offer to infrastructure as well as construction and engineering professionals has propelled their growth and popularity in the market.
However, despite how far drone technology has come in recent years, there are still numerous challenges faced by the industry. The professional drones available today are yet to achieve the efficiency which is required to truly optimise inspection operations.
This can be attributed to drones’ short battery life and limited payloads. Furthermore, for a drone to complete a useful inspection which provides actionable data, the drones must be fitted with high-end cameras and connectivity hardware, both of which adds more weight as well as strain on the battery.
However, there are consistent and continuous developments and improvements being made to drones that are used in these applications.
Industrial companies all over the world, despite their specialities, make use of a plethora of complex machinery to generate products on a massive scale. It is therefore imperative that equipment works precisely as intended ad infinitum to prevent production levels from falling, lost productivity, staggering repair costs, and preventable injuries occurring on-site.
With regularly scheduled inspections, it can help the company ensure that there is timely reaction and appropriate actions to prevent flaws, damages, and any other trouble which may undermine the performance of equipment.
It has been proven that conventional methods of industrial inspection can be comparatively inefficient. By making use of drones, companies can streamline the process involved with inspecting areas that are too dangerous or difficult for humans to inspect.
Technicians can use drones to examine hypothetical problem areas without having to enter dangerous areas. There are two main components involved in industrial inspections namely external and internal inspections.
GPS-enabled environments, or external inspections, can be done by using several different drone systems, depending on the scope of the inspection. These drones typically use Real-Time Kinematics, or RTK, to provide centimetre-accurate global positioning.
With the use of RTK, loss of flight capability can be prevented in environments where there is high electrical activity. In addition, using high-definition cameras, which can either be top- or bottom- mounted, structures can be examined from above or below.
These drones can also be fitted with thermal imaging cameras to provide simultaneous images as well as real-time video.
Internal inspections with drones can be done much like external inspections, with technicians assessing the circumstances which include the scope of the inspection. Environments classified as non-GPS-enabled environments may present several challenges where drone navigation is concerned.
However, these challenges can be overcome by using LiDAR and collision-tolerant systems. Drones equipped with LiDAR are designed specifically for internal inspections, using cameras that can swivel 180 degrees vertically. In addition, these units also use navigation systems to avoid collisions and navigate without needing a GPS connection.
These drones can also accurately measure any defects remotely by using measurement and mapping capabilities.
The use of drones in construction has rapidly increased since the adoption by civil and commercial groups since 2016, with an upward trend forecasted for years ahead with the further development of drone technology.
How are drones used for construction monitoring?
- Pre-construction planning phases.
- Equipment location, inventory, and safety.
- Topographic mapping and land surveys.
- Security surveillance.
- Employee safety as well as inspections.
- Connecting employees who work remotely to the job site.
- Investment and legal documentation.
- Structural reviews, inspections, photography, and surveys.
- Live streaming capabilities.
- Marketing advantages
- Data collection as well as storage for later review
With both drone and imaging technology consistently evolving, drone involvement in construction monitoring is set to rapidly increase. Drones make it easier for companies to provide visual data regarding the progress of construction projects, allowing for clients to obtain quick updates on how things are proceeding.
These updates can include detailed maps of the entire construction site with GPS points, allowing for the client to zoom in and view smaller details of the area. This also allows for detailed visual reports which can be shared with stakeholders.
Construction drones come in a variety of shapes, with models which can be fixed wing while others have rotating blades. The main difference between construction drones is their design and usage.
Fixed-wing drones can glide on a set path and reach higher altitudes, making them perfect for mapping topography as well as surveying great distances. Rotary drones are used for inspection as well as surveillance over shorter distances, and they also allow for improved manoeuvring.