Construction Today - June 2017 - 13
manage the entirety of your flight operations
so you don't waste time on things that don't
generate any revenue-repeating instructions
to pilots such as wondering who a drone has
been assigned to and whether batteries have
been charged or merging spreadsheets.
Getting set up for success at the outset will
ensure that the information you present to
your customers, clients and colleagues is on
time, accurate, and easy to understand.
Inspections are a part of life on job sites, so
any means to make them more efficient will
speed up the process and lower a firm's bottom line. With the ability to see a live thermographic image of a structure, an inspector
can search for unusual differences in heat.
This makes studying energy efficiency and
checking for problems like water leakage
and damaged insulation much simpler.
Although construction companies have
been using thermal imaging for several
years, it has only recently become possible
to attach a thermal sensor to a drone. The
ability to take an aerial heat image, without
chartering a helicopter or plane, lowers costs
and may provide more scheduling flexibility.
Drones with thermal sensors can accomplish a lot on a construction site such as
detecting thermal hotspots, delamination,
spalling and moisture intrusion.
Solar panels are another use for dronebased thermal imaging inspections. Specifically, photo-voltaic cells are most efficient
when they are cooler. Excess heat is a sign
that these cells are not working as well as
Because solar farms are frequently spread
across several modules located in remote
areas with harsh environmental conditions,
drones are a cost-effective alternative to personnel working at height, elevated tripods,
or conventional aircraft.
In general, agriculture in the United States
has been slower to adopt drone technol-
Drones equipped with thermal
sensors also are helping keep
ogy than other industries such as construction and engineering,
energy, insurance and broadcast media. My take on this adoption
pattern is that smaller farms don't have the time to become drone
experts and data analysts on top of everything they're already doing, such as managing soil, planting crops, irrigating, accounting
Industrial farms, on the other hand, are using drones to maximize
yields, irrigate efficiently and identify issues early on. Recently, I was
struck by the case of sugar beets - a major source of refined sugar in
the U.S. - which are stored in huge piles after harvest. Due to their
high sugar content, sugar beets are prone to fermentation, which can
quickly spread and ruin the surrounding beets. The heat energy released by this process is detectable by thermal cameras, so a properly
outfitted drone can fly over several piles of beets in relatively little
time, helping to identify problem areas and cut down on waste.
Trevor Wichmann is
senior director of sales at
Skyward. For more information, visit skyward.io.
Emergency Response Uses
Drones equipped with thermal sensors are also helping emergency
responders and public safety workers keep us - and themselves
- safer. Search and rescue teams can use drones to detect humans
in the wilderness, even at night. Firefighters are using thermal
imaging technology to detect hotspots in buildings. When it comes
to extra-scary emergencies such as train derailments and methanol
fires, drones give first responders a way to inspect the situation while
staying out harm's way. Methanol produces a flame invisible to the
human eye, which makes it extremely difficult for firefighter crews
to deal with.
JUNE 2017 CONSTRUCTION-TODAY.COM