Unmanned aerial vehicles are one of the technological marvels of the century. Commonly known as drones, they continue to find applications in a wide range of areas, from precision agriculture to the unmanned deliveries of equipment and medicine in remote areas.
Drone inspection is one of the most useful applications of drones.
You might have heard of it but aren’t exactly sure what it entails. Read on for an overview of everything you need to know about the use of drones in inspection.
Let’s start by defining it.
What Is Drone Inspection?
Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) inspection is the use of drone-mounted sensors to collect data about the state of assets. The data can be used to:
- Inform predictive maintenance of high-value assets like electricity transmission lines.
- Assess the progress of projects. For example, you can use drones to track the construction of a building and measure it against your schedule.
The applications of UAV inspection are numerous. In most industries, you can use drones to acquire useful data. The above applications are just examples.
The process of inspecting assets using drones has multiple aspects. I’ll go over the most critical ones in the sections below.
One of the advantages of the use of drones in inspection is that you can collect a variety of data.
The most common type of data is RGB imagery. This involves the capture of normal photographs.
But, depending on the UAV payload you’ve equipped your drone with, you can collect additional types of data, including:
- Thermal data, useful for example in locating survivors after disasters.
- Ultraviolet data. This can come in handy when detecting corona discharges on electricity transmission lines.
- Near-infrared data. You can use this data to analyze the condition of plants on farms.
A combination of the above types of data can be incredibly insightful across a wide range of inspection use cases, from detection of leakages on roofs using thermal data to the detection of millimeter-sized damage in telecommunication infrastructure.
The type of data you can collect is dependent on the payload you have. Let’s get into that.
A drone payload is what you attach to the drone to achieve a certain goal. If the goal was to bomb an enemy camp, the payload would be a missile. But since our goal is to collect inspection data, our payload is a sensor.
A sensor is a device that is sensitive to a certain signal, usually part of the electromagnetic spectrum.
A visible light camera is sensitive to visible light and produces normal RGB images. On the other hand, an infrared camera is sensitive to infrared waves and produces a thermal image (heat map).
When doing UAV inspection, you first determine the data you want to collect. You then find the payload with the necessary sensor and attach it to your drone.
The value of the data you collect is only as good as your ability to make sense of it. And this is where data analysis comes in.
One of the advantages of UAV inspection is that it replaces manual inspection. For instance, instead of climbing up to the roof to check whether any repairs are needed, you just fly a drone over the roof and capture images.
If you have a good sensor, the images will be almost as good as being physically present on the roof.
While this certainly makes things easier, going through hours of footage can be tiring and inefficient, especially when you are dealing with a lot of assets.
Fortunately, thanks to technological advances like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, you don’t have to comb through the footage.
With specially made software, you can automatically analyze data. The software will alert you to areas that need human attention so that you can take a closer look.
I’ve gone over some of the most important aspects of UAV inspection. If you’re just starting out, doing all this can be daunting. Luckily, instead of undertaking to set up a fully operational UAV inspection project from scratch, you can outsource it to aerial imaging companies.
Aerial Imaging Companies
An aerial imaging company typically has everything you need to carry out a successful UAV inspection.
They have a range of both rotor and fixed-wing drones, qualified drone pilots, mapping software, image analysis software, and so on. Furthermore, they have a range of skills and competencies that will come in handy.
For example, drone projects usually require permits. The process of acquiring a permit can be lengthy and complicated. But with the help of an experienced aerial imaging company, it gets easier.