Solving a High Level Problem with High-Tech

This article first appeared in Tomorrows FM

It goes without saying that planned and regular building maintenance is vital, just a little time each year spent inspecting key assets can avoid costly and intrusive repairs. However, regular inspections can be delayed or omitted altogether because accessing buildings and working at height can be dangerous and expensive. New technology can however deliver a cost-effective alternative.

UAVs (or ‘drones’) offer a high-tech solution, delivering a variety of benefits over current methods. They negate the need for working at height and offer a rapid review of the structural integrity of your buildings. Key personnel can stay safely on the ground while the UAV uses its camera to give a bird’s eye view and home in on any areas of concern on structures such as chimneys and roofs.

Notably, only CAA approved operators will have a licence to operate UAVs commercially which indicates that they have fully qualified pilots and an approved safety and maintenance regime.

UAVs provide rapid access to all including the most challenging & difficult to reach buildings, roof structures and commercial assets. The attraction of using UAVs to inspect inaccessible structures is obvious, yet, despite this, their use is currently relatively limited with the main reason being a lack of awareness of the full range of benefits that they can bring.

Current inspection methods generally require a great deal of planning, potentially expensive equipment hire and a number of accompanying risks. Furthermore the personnel most suited for reaching these awkward areas are also not necessarily those best suited to assessing the information they find. A UAV addresses all these disadvantages, as it can in a matter of moments access key infrastructure e.g. a roof, and feedback real time images to qualified personnel safely located on the ground.

The speed of access should not be underestimated, as time is inevitably money. The quality of data is exceptional with UAV mounted cameras able to zoom in on problem areas inspecting damage, cracking, pest problems and other issues with ease. Clients can see for example loose bricks/slates, damaged flashing, debris build up  & bird infestations etc. without the need to go out on to the roof themselves. When a problem is located, repair/maintenance can be set in motion immediately.

Using a UAV minimises the risk to personnel since no climbing or high rise equipment is required. Of course manual access may be necessary to fix damage or clean a facility but if surveys & inspections can be carried out remotely then the amount of difficult or dangerous work is significantly reduced. Images from the UAV can also be used to carry out health & safety inspections determining the best routes for any high access personnel.

GPS-equipped UAVs can help with an ever-growing range of tasks as they are not limited to only one way of seeing things. As well as high-definition videos and photographs, they can also help create 3D models and utilise specialist cameras to spot hidden problems. This variety of different sensing equipment ranges from an ordinary camera (equating to a manual visual inspection) to thermal imaging equipment (ideal for identifying heat loss, blockages, leaks or stress points) and also multispectral cameras (detecting vegetation damage) and LIDAR equipment for mapping areas of concern. All this data can be manipulated safely on the ground in a variety of ways ultimately improving overall knowledge regarding the condition of a building or other asset. Pre-programmable flight paths ensure inspections can easily be repeated delivering total accuracy should specific areas be revisited.

Notably, using a UAV can also be significantly cheaper than current methods. In summary as well as supplying high quality data, the main advantages of using a UAV for all forms of building/infrastructure inspection are that they are:

  • Quick
  • Cheap
  • Safe

A UAV is now without doubt the quickest and easiest way to perform an elevated survey, feeding back results instantly. If you would like a quote for a roof or building survey please get in touch on 01444 401840.

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