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29 Jul 2016, 8:30

Remote inspection of utilities using drones

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Drones are a big conversation topic at the moment and not always for the right reason, but drones are becoming more popular across industry as an asset for inspection and this is specifically the case for utility companies as they offer substantial benefits to both safety and efficiency.

Utilities are often in demanding and dangerous environments, using drones in these environments (wind farms, water treatment and power distribution) help prevent staff from coming into direct contact with a safety hazard, such as electrical hazard, working at heights and large volumes of water (including bio hazard).

Drones are being used to inspect the assets of utility companies, in particular:

  • Cracks
  • Surface degradation (wear & Tear)
  • Hot-Spots using thermal imagery

Benefits of using Drones include:

  • Safety – Staff can stay at a safe distance which will reduce the likelihood of an injury.
  • Efficiency – Deploying a drone can be quicker and the inspection can be carried out much faster, which has an impact in the overall costs.
  • Quality of inspection – as well as streaming live video for immediate inspection, these video feeds can be recorded for later analysis and comparison to previous inspections, so helping to detect early failure and so preventative maintenance can be carried out.
  • GPS recorded in imaging to record site inspection
  • Using a thermal imaging camera, widens the scope of inspection capabilities.

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Important factors to consider before purchasing a drone:

Drone

  • User needs to be able to confidently fly in intended location
  • Condition of environment drone is/can be used in (weather)
  • Camera – quality needs to be sufficient for inspection needs (simply looking for wear and tear or are you looking for fine cracks) or is a thermal camera needed?
  • Cost – although drones start at a low cost, it is important to determine the exact needs, for example if a thermal camera is needed this will impact the overall cost significantly.

Operator

  • Needs to consider the personal safety in the area they are working
  • Needs to be qualified / trained to understand the inspection they are carrying out and wheat to look out for.

Further considerations on flying drones safely

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With a background in electronics and electrical engineering, with a keen eye on innovation and how things work.

29 Jul 2016, 8:30