This new paradigm of Drone-based inspections is helping industries improve efficiency and quality of data acquisition while increasing safety and speed of delivery. Although a new and emerging technology, (which is still evolving), in early 2018, most companies are not aware of the possible benefits they can achieve using small unmanned aerial vehicles (sUAVs) to inspect their assets.
Present Challenges of Traditional Asset Inspections
The first thing is to realize there are several challenges with traditional asset inspection methods. Most often, the boss is aware of the high costs, risks and the long time it takes to carry out a traditional inspection. Despite having this knowledge, the organization will most likely be looking at ways to improve on the methods, but rarely looking at drones as an alternative.
Already, there are several industries that are using drones to inspect a wide range of assets, including aerial photography, surveying, deliveries, asset inspections and more. Others are just starting, while the rest have yet to make the decision. While companies using the drones can quickly and safely produce detailed and accurate inspection data, the ones relying on traditional methods will find it hard to do so over the same period. The scope of drone use case applications will vary from one company to the other, but the building industry, energy, insurance, real estate and others with similar requirements are using drones to carry out a wide range of inspections. There are several benefits to using drones to perform activities, such as asset inspections, which are traditionally risky, costly and time-consuming. In addition, it replaces the traditional methods that are likely to produce inaccurate data due to human error and other factors.
Compelling Details and Benefits of Drone Inspections vs. Traditional Methods
The development of drones in the last few years is changing, which is enhancing the inspection process by making it safer, inexpensive and less time-consuming. UAV technology has many benefits; here are 10 compelling reasons for considering drones as an alternative.
1. Drones minimize the obvious dangers and health risks
Drones enable easy and safe inspections of tall and complex structures, especially the inspections of facilities such as oil and gas refineries, flare stacks, and pipelines. They eliminates the need for workers to physically access hostile environments, where factors such as height, wind, waves, weather, and radiation can lead to accidents or health issues. Drones can easily access difficult-to-reach areas while eliminating the need for a human to go there using the risky mechanical tools.
2. Collection of in-depth and higher detail data
UAVs equipped with obstacle avoidance capabilities are able to navigate very close structures, allowing them to capture minute details. They can take high-resolution images or 4K video that clearly show cracks, damage, misplaced wires and other defects at elevations and angles that humans cannot. This allows for collection of more comprehensive data without exposing the inspection team to risks.
3. Quick deployment or launch
Licensed FAA remote pilots can launch a drone inspection within a very short time upon request. Since it only takes minutes to launch a drone-based inspection, UAVs are suitable for both regular and emergency scenarios. In addition, drones are fast and capable of completing an inspection in 5-20 minutes. As such, an insurance company, construction engineer, lending company or prospective home buyer can easily request an inspection and get results in less than one hour.
4. Flexibility to suit a majority of inspections
Drones have the ability of high or low altitude inspections and come in various sizes, providing a wide selection to suit a variety of inspection needs. In addition, the flexibility and ease of customizing with a diverse variety of tools allows them to be equipped with endless applications. This is very useful for building developers and rooftop inspections. Drones can take photos, capture video, take thermal images, transmit data, and other functions that enable them to collect and share information that would take days using conventional means.
5. Easily shareable data
With standard software and analytical tools, images and other information collected from a project site can be used to generate standard reports that are easily shared across different sectors. The information can be customized for different industries, making it easier for professionals in any industry to easily interpret and share relevant data.
6. Use Drones for marketing and advertising
Other than inspections for maintenance and other purposes, drones can provide outstanding video footage for marketing initiatives. In real estate, for instance, high-quality images and cinematography will give potential investors, whether buyers or tenants, a better view of properties they are considering.
7. Little to zero downtime for equipment and systems
Most manual inspections require shutting down equipment or systems to avoid damage or injuries to the inspection personnel. However, drones can safely inspect complex systems, such as wind turbines, radars, communication towers and other infrastructure, while they are operating. This means that inspection does not interfere with services or production.
8. Ability to inspect difficult to reach and hazardous areas
Drones are making it possible for professionals to easily collect aerial data in places where it would be logically impossible. It is less risky and safer to use drones in hostile environments for applications, such as radiation monitoring, inspecting high-voltage lines, and other installations that can cause injuries or health problems. Since most of these applications must be inspected while still in operation, a manual process would require more expensive equipment and protection gear.
9. Low insurance costs
Manual inspections are risky and require paying insurance for inspectors and workers before carrying out the tasks. Insurance requirements for drones are minimal and mission-based, hence with much lower costs. In addition, the risks of injury is reduced dramatically in a drone-based inspection.
10. Save time and money
Drones minimize the high cost and time required to erect ladders, access towers, swing stages, aerial lifts, and other heavy equipment. In addition, you do not have to hire or acquire ladders, heavy equipment and large pickup trucks for every inspection. Since the job takes less time, it means that you can inspect more assets in one day.