Across the globe the post pandemic era is characterized in many countries by an increased investment in ambitious infrastructure upgrade projects (eg. The American Infrastructure Plan tabled by the Biden Administration) to kickstart flagging economies and create jobs. Traditional methods of facilities inspection and monitoring will not be enough. There is no escaping the need for more aggressive use of modern, drone inspection technologies.
The force-multiplier effects of inspection drones
- Firstly, inspection by drones is the only way of overcoming traditional methods for infrastructure planning, assessment and monitoring such old snooper trucks and rope-inspection teams.
- Secondly, automated flight plans overcome the following constraints:
a. The number of drone pilots, and time to train them as they enable one-to-many relationship between operator and UAVs, with less focus on the level of piloting skills.
b. Further, drone pilot operated missions are inherently constrained by the fact that operator also has to concentrate on piloting rather than the sensor payload.
c. Long range, close-up inspection missions can be both daunting and demanding on human pilots requiring a high level of expertise.
i. Manually controlling BVLOS missions using only the GCS screen requires extreme skill, and hours of painstaking flight required for long range missions which is beyond the capabilities of most pilots.
ii. These unique requirements are definitely not very scalable and the risk of crashes high and pilot training costs expensive.
Manually (FPV) operated drones
- While drones naturally extend the range reach of most operations, FPV flights still constrained by being completely manually operated.
- Looking straight up (bridge inspection) and flying (hovering) in GPS-denied environments is not possible.
- Because they are built around the fundamental assumption that a pilot needs to be focused 100% on keeping their aircraft from crashing, manual drones are incapable of meeting the demands of enterprise inspection programs looking for precision, cost-effectiveness, and safety.
Pre-programmed flight plans
Currently much is made about futuristic levels of drone automation, which are very expensive, ROI still difficult to justify. Current proven levels of flight automation, such a pre-programmed flight plans can deliver benefits today, at no extra costs.
- Known layout enables of built infrastructure allows predictable flight path planning with autonomous drones which lets the drone operator focus on the inspection task at hand, instead of the complexity of piloting the drone.
- The inherent safety of pre-programmed drone flights reduces the pilot training requirements as well as the need for such scarce resources.
- This enables more focus on operating the sensor payloads and data to facilitate business outcomes with a higher level of precision, cost-effectiveness, and safety.
Drones become roaming extensions of IOT systems and interacting with various sources of sensor data analyse it for patterns which can be uploaded into cloud platforms where AI can be applied.
The data and intelligence that drones can gather that are both useful and actionable. The UAV-based sensors are used to create highly accurate 3D models for the full construction life cycle, also known as Building Information Modelling (BIM). These digital twins can be used optimize the workflows of engineers and architects and allow for more closer up flight plans for subsequent inspections reducing the need for more powerful sensors.
Typical USE CASES
Longer range and higher endurance inspection flight missions means higher ROI per flight because more expansive infrastructure facilities can be monitored and business outcomes achieved per flight.
The latest advances in drone autonomy allow the drone to fly in GPS-denied environments and allows inspectors to look up and inspect the underside of the bridge. In particular drone-based LiDAR data can detect vertical and horizontal displacements of bridge components.
Telecom Mast Inspection
Drones can safely navigate up close to cell tower structures, where high performance sensors generate detailed imagery and can autonomously capture comprehensive imagery and generate 3D datasets for viewing in the field or exporting to photogrammetry engines.
With automated flight missions that don’t rely on magnetometer calibration, drones can fly near transmission and distribution towers that emit high levels of EMI.
Construction Site Inspection and Monitoring
Key to effective construction site management remotely by drone is the ability to autonomously capture complex structures up close from every angle to build digital twins and 3D models of construction sites.
This will allow for further low altitude flights among obstacles and more frequent and accurate progress tracking.
With technology that assists in planning, optimizes jobsite progress, reduces costs, and improves safety, an increasing number of companies today are using drone technology for visual inspection, as it is a cost-conscious and effective way to inspect at heights and inaccessible areas.
Airborne Drones specializes in the manufacture of long range drones.