It’s easy to see how drones are changing the way businesses and communities inspect their assets. A handheld, autonomous, and compact UAV that can capture detailed images and data today is a far cry from actual helicopters trying to accomplish the same feat just 10 years ago, and thanks to the affordability of drone equipment, it’s never been a better time to update your industry with the new efficiencies and data that drones provide. The hard part is actually understanding the value of these drone flights, specifically in commercial infrastructure inspection.
Drones may be evolving firefighters and police departments nationwide, but the largest changes to the way we work are coming from large-scale inspections in energy, commercial real estate, roofing, and telecommunication. So let’s start with the technology behind the value.
The brass-tax of drone operations comes down to their greatest tool — the camera. By using different technologies and cameras for various jobs, drones can pinpoint energy leaks, facade damage, growing hotspots, and so much more. This is achieved through camera specs with infrared, LiDAR, OGI, and digital imagery.
Thanks to Hollywood, everyone knows infrared and digital imagery, so let’s break down LiDAR and OGI.
OGI follows a similar color-spectrum pattern to identify gas leaks that are invisible to the human eye but visible to special cameras. It’s used to pinpoint where, for example, methane is leaking at a facility where it shouldn’t be.
LiDAR, on the other hand, stands for Light Detection and Ranging. It’s used to measure distances by illuminating targets with laser technology in order to make 3-D models and maps of the targets identified. It’s primarily used for accurate asset modeling and planning.
So now that we know the technology, let’s get into the techniques.
LiDAR, OGI, and infrared can only be taken as far as the techniques applied to them. Drone experts combine camera technology with specific flight and processing techniques in order to automatically generate reports with measurements and estimates needed to make informed asset decisions. These techniques include photogrammetry, thermography, and 3-D modeling.
Photogrammetry is the science of obtaining reliable data about physical objects through recording, measuring, and interpreting photographic images. Thermography is the process of identifying problems found with infrared technology. 3-D modeling is the process of actually putting together accurate models from images captured.
This is how a drone flight with the right technology can provide direct value to asset managers in businesses through the country — by interpreting mission-critical data that can identify catastrophic failures before they happen, showcase regulatory issues before companies are fined, and by mapping out building issues with immediate ease and accurate reporting.
To put it simply, the technology makes it possible — the value is in the techniques.