Advanced Drone Inspection & Surveying

20. July 2015

Onshore and offshore energy park operators profit from advanced aerial sensing technology. Call it multicopters, drones, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) or remotely operated aerial vehicles (ROAV) – those flying platforms offer great advantages like lower costs and safety improvement.

Drone inspection – the much smarter solution

Challenging industrial inspection projects like planning and maintenance of on- and offshore energy parks – or other industrial plants – require reliable technology solutions and reliable drone service providers. It’s quite impressive, when our customers tell, what they already were able to realise with the AscTec Falcon 8 in the past. For instance Cyberhawk’s “world of drones” firsts.

The more motivating it is, when they talk about remarkable improvement, due to AscTec Trinity. Just think of a drone surveying and drone inspection flights in about something like a quarter of previous time! As Cyberhawk achieved in their commercial drone flight number 10,000.

Calling for sustainability in drone inspection technology

Furthermore people in positions of high responsibility from industry and economy prefer long-term planning security for investment in innovative technologies. They are not investing in lucky one hit wonders, but insist on sustainable drone inspection solutions.

Onshore and offshore energy park operators like Apache, BP Group, Centrica, ConocoPhilips, edp, ESB, ExxonMobil, Gasco, Perenco, Marathon Oil, MÆRSK, NAM, Network Rail, Nexen, Perenco, Petroleum Development Oman, Petronas, Shell, Siemens, SSE, Statoil, Total and so on, who engage our customers are quite demanding.

But recent developments show that sustainable improvement of multirotor and autopilot technology from Ascending Technologies add real value for customers and customer’s customers all over the world. With 6 offshore projects in the North Sea, June 2015 has been the busiest month ever recorded by Cyberhawk’s offshore Oil and Gas department.

Tiny flying whatever vs. crucial inspection drones

Of course expert services require expert operators and expert instruments, but how could these whatever-copters, flying something, micro-drones be safe enough? Indeed public authorities – with partially excessive bureaucratic hurdles – more and more get used to the civil drone AscTec Falcon 8 – and acknowledge safety! Maybe not in Austria … but in Australia … and in Spain authorities even recommend the patented octocopter with unique V-form – and thankfully most countries around the world – as far as we know.

However the services provided by skilled drone land surveyors and drone inspection engineers combined with experienced pilots providing crucial savings potential and improvements in safety to the renewables industry.

Up to 90 percent cost savings – compared to traditional costs of inspections – could be achieved by Sky-Futures’ drone inspection operation a few months ago.

Main benefits & USPs of drone use for inspection and surveying

Following are some of the main benefits of a drone / UAV survey when compared to conventional land survey:

  • With drone-supported aerial inspection there is reduced exposure to risk for surveyors.
  • Traditional land surveying methods are very labour intensive, requiring the surveyor to cover every inch of a site in order to take observations using GPS or total station instruments. The site work can be carried out more quickly. With brand new Quick Survey function you don’t even need a PC or waypoint preprogramming.
  • Limited ground access is required on site and inaccessible spots or areas can be surveyed remotely.
  • Drones generate improved information – structural, topographical, high-resolution aerial imagery.
  • Drones are quite cost-effective: The AscTec Falcon 8 provides large area outputs; e.g. 100 hectares per hour.
  • Mostly no downtime and shutdowns required. The drone will inspect from save distance.

So it is all about the land surveying services using drones to improve the planning and monitoring of land, assessment of new and old constructions and inspection services using drones to improve the maintenance of assets.

Drone inspection for renewables

Good visual data of a location can really improve not only the project team’s understanding of the site, but also the team’s decision-making process. Accurate and reliable topographic survey information is vital – from scoping right through to design and construction. Since renewable projects and their related infrastructure are often situated in hostile environments like hilltops, moorlands, remote valleys, cliffs and tidal areas.

In the renewables sector, drones are used to acquire high-resolution aerial imagery and process the results using photogrammetry software to generate accurate topographic surveying information, orthophotos and oblique panoramic images. This advanced technology has revolutionised the acquisition of site data.

A surveying operation can last for many weeks and the exposure to risk at such sites can be significant and protracted. Thus the quality of geospatial information is at the heart of all planning and design for any new renewables development.

High-quality aerial imagery & precise measurement

In recent years the progress in battery and autopilot technology – like the AscTec Trinity – and obviously advances in digital cameras have allowed the development of robust and compact civil drones. At least suitable to work trustworthy and acquire aerial imagery in commercial-quality.

Drone-acquired information is highly beneficial for assessing potential site locations, designing site layouts, generating 3D visualizations, assessing site visibility, calculating volumes of earthworks and objects, monitoring construction progress, analysing structures and producing as-built records.