Drones replacing humans – when, why and how?

Inspections: Drones can save lives, drones can save money. But can they in fact replace inspection workers, like the ones who would climb a roof to check for lose tiles? That’s what we’ll discuss in this article, where we’ll also discuss what would be the ideal way to tackle the changes drones are applying to the inspection industry.

Why UAV inspections are in rising popularity

Speed
The essential benefit of drones as inspection devices consists in higher speed: that there’s certain things that drones can do much faster than traditional inspection methods, such as climbing. And as we know, faster equals more money.

Practical
Drones are more practical than humans in the sense that:

– they can collect huge amounts of data, which can then be shared or even sold to multiple parties. For example, in the roofing industry, a drone can easily cover a whole neighborhood of +500 houses in one day (!). Then you’re just left with the challenge of getting all this data handled, but that’s exactly why the Scopito platform exists.

– they can fly, which means that they’ll skip time consuming climbs to places of low accessibility, while the drone operator stays put on the ground.

– they don’t need much room to operate: Specially designed drones can take photographs in narrow or confined spaces (like a nuclear reactor) and from angles where a climber would have a lot of trouble getting to. For example, the Swiss company Flyability and their drone Elios, which is collision tolerant, meaning that it without complications can bump into objects like pipes etc.

Watch their video here, it’s pretty cool!


Health and safety
Also, worth mentioning is that there is a safety risk involved with climbing. But not just do drones reduce the risk of accidents, climbing is also tough on the back.

“If I would only know where to put the ladder before I climbed it, only to learn that it should’ve been placed just slightly to the left…”
– A frustrated 46 years old roofer, London, Great Britain.

Roof inspection Scopito

Drones, climbers and synergy
The interesting thing about solutions like Elios is that it opens up new opportunities for inspections, rather than taking market shares from other inspection methods. (Thermal inspections, especially suitable for solar panel inspections, are also a good example of this, since they would be very expensive to do without a drone).

The key word here is:

Synergy.

At the time of writing, spring 2018, and the next couple of years ahead, drones will not make climbers go out of business. But they will change the work process significantly, for the companies that embrace these new opportunities.

Drones (especially when they fly autonomously) can be utilized to save money while no traditional inspectors have to lose their jobs – because drones are currently more of a supplement that increases profitability of inspections, than they are replacements of people. With that said though, some might lose their jobs in the long run, because:

Nowadays, companies are starting to understand that in order to achieve further productivity while maintaining healthy assets, having historical data of an asset can eventually be utilized to apply preventive maintenance. This phenomenon can in the future reduce the need of more traditional methods – but will also improve the economy of these companies.

Now, let’s look at some examples of how drones and inspectors are actually working together and making it possible for inspectors to enhance earnings.

quality solar drone inspection solution

Image: A solar farm inspection in Scopito. Try it here without a login.

The ‘how’ of drones and climbers synergizing
Some might say to us: “I know a guy who does inspections by knocking with his hammer all around the asset, to hear if everything’s okay”,
or
“I use my fingers to check every bolt to see if it’s lose.” And then they would proceed:“… Drones can’t do that”. And that is of course correct. But the thing is, the guy knocking with a hammer, or checking the bolts with his fingers – how often does he do it? Most likely not every time he inspects. And that’s where we return to our key word:

Synergy.

Because, if he combines the occasional “hammer check” (or whatever method he prefers) with a more frequent drone inspection, he’ll most likely save time and thereby money.

If a climber can inspect a cell tower in 4 hours.
And a drone can do it in 1 hour.

But the drone can’t check all the things that a climber can. And it cannot, currently, repair the assets. (But possibly it can years from now).

Then the ideal solution must be to create an inspection plan that involves both drones and climbers. That could e.g. be a one-time-a-year-check with the hammer, and a monthly drone inspection, sometimes followed by a climb to further inspect the issues or elements of interest identified via the drone inspection.
The climber can also sometimes add value to the drone inspections by pointing out relevant places for the drone to monitor).

So, no one is being fired as of the next coming years. We can just accomplish more in less time.

Indeed, drones doesn’t fix. They gather data very efficiently. Let’s see what the future brings.

The future is owned by those who embrace it.
And one of the companies that embrace the future by letting drones supplement traditional inspection methods is the Danish company, Geopartner Inspections, whom we talked to about when, how and why they combine drones with other inspection methods. Read the article here.

Roof and gutter inspection Scopito

Are drones controversial?
Our previous employee Sagi Alagem Iversen has written a blog post about cell tower drone inspections, from which we received both positive and negative Facebook comments – like this one:

Scopito Facebook comment

So it’s seems that not all agree on the relevance of drones in inspections. If you have come this far in the article, you are much welcome to comment the article on Facebook, regardless of your opinion.

It all comes together with the right software
No matter the chosen combination of drones and other inspection methods, at Scopito we believe that how inspectors choose to handle inspection data is vital for profits.

The benefits of drone inspections are numerous – but the amounts of images are colossal. Software that are designed for inspection data analysis can save inspectors time, e.g. by automating as many tasks as possible.

Our favorite platform is of course Scopito, and you can play with our demo material for free at app.scopito.com/#/registration

Drone software fence inspection

 

Written by: Søren Døssing Jensen

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For more information:
Dani Feller, International Account Manager at Scopito
+45 28 18 17 90 – daf@scopito.com