Blog Post
Don’t Settle for the Drone Alone: Maximizing UAV Inspections for Structural Assets
June 18, 2018

Drones. They’re everywhere these days.

According to Goldman Sachs research from 2016, the drone market is expected to reach $100 billion by 2020, with increasing opportunities across a range of industries, including utilities. Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are used for structural inspections across a number of industries, providing companies with greater access to high quality imagery and critical data regarding their structures.

But, you need more than drones to be able to take the data one step further and turn it into action. There are plenty of drone service providers out there, but most do not have the required structural expertise to provide a comprehensive view of an asset. That’s why accurate, experienced interpretation of the data is just as important as the technology for the overall quality of the inspection.

MORE THAN JUST TECHNOLOGY

On a basic level, a drone inspection provides high-definition photo or video documentation during an inspection. And while this is a step above standard photography, it does not encompass what is needed for a full inspection. Comprehensive inspections should be targeted and developed by certified experts in the field.

For example, your inspectors should be able to:

  • Identify missing or damaged components.
  • Determine if corrosion is surface level or severe to the point of wall loss or pitting.
  • Recognize design flaws, such as improper bend tolerances, reject-able welds, and fatigue cracks.
  • Follow up a baseline drone inspection with a more specialized non-destructive testing (NDT inspection) or hands-on inspection

Without a proper drone inspection team in place, you could end up with massive amounts of data, and no guidance on how to use it. The data would then become worthless, minimizing the return on your investment in the UAV services. Additionally, if you do have an evaluation strategy, but your inspectors don’t have the right qualifications for the job, you could receive incorrect information on your assets; they could miss an important repair or require you to fix something that is actually in good condition. Either way, this would be cost prohibitive to your business.

THE LONG-TERM BENEFITS

There’s a big “wow” factor when it comes to drones as they make their way into the industries dependent upon infrastructure asset health (especially utilities). While the technology advancements are impressive, the real excitement comes from how you act on the data the drones generate. Combining UAV technology with professional structural inspection expertise and non-destructive testing can yield the following benefits for your business:

Structural Failure Prevention

By enhancing drone technology with professional expertise, you’ll gain insight into the highest need areas of your structures. A seasoned inspection team can identify structural hazards and make recommendations, so you can repair them before situations become dire. Additionally, experienced inspectors are aware of systemic issues and manufacturing defects, and can pass this information down to you. This allows you to be proactive, rather than reactive, in maintaining critical infrastructure.

Increased Efficiency

Another benefit of combining a professional structural inspection with UAV technology is the operational support you’ll receive. When you outsource this work, you allow your team members to stay focused on their daily tasks, rather than spending time deciphering images and data. Professional drone inspectors augment your industry expertise with structural knowledge that will sustain your assets over the long run.

HOW EXO CAN HELP 

At Exo, our team works with drones/UAVs to not only record data, but strategically evaluate your structures and provide recommendations for ensuring their longevity. We’ll share drone data with you via Exo Link – our web-based client portal that contains the digital twin of your asset- so you’ll have a comprehensive view of your system right at your fingertips.

To learn more about our drone inspections, stop by Booth #1005 at the Energy Drone Coalition Summit, June 20-21, or contact one of our experts today.

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