As the UAV market spreads, people are realizing the numerous safety and economic benefits that the drone inspections provide. From reducing the safety risks to reducing the time it takes to inspect a facility, the drone-based inspections can save huge amounts of money for companies and individuals.
The drone-based aerial inspections can be used for general asset inspections, pre-shutdown assessment, post-incident inspection, checking the integrity of facilities such as flare systems and more.
Hiring drone inspection services
Since organizations require the inspections once every few months or years, most of them do not see the need to purchase the drones and train their staff on how to operate them. Furthermore, a successful inspection requires more than just the hardware. It requires experience and people who are inspection experts for the specific structure or facility. For these reasons, the majority of companies prefer to hire the services of drone inspection providers.
But with so many companies claiming to offer drone services, it can be challenging deciding on who is best suited to perform a successive inspection. The choice of an inspection company is critical in ensuring reliable results. As such, it is always important to pay attention to the important aspects of an inspection before hiring a company.
Why you should aim at a good inspection
- A bad aerial inspection gives inaccurate data. Analysing such data produces misleading results that have potential to increase risks, accidents, and losses.
- If unsuccessful, a repeat inspection becomes necessary and this increases the costs.
- A bad inspection increases the possibility of accidents and safety risks for the employees and people in the facility. This is especially so if the aim was to analyze the structure and improve safety.
- When inspecting a building or structure for marketing purposes, inaccurate reports such as poor images and videos may drive away potential customers.
Considerations looking for a drone inspection provider
To help you make the right decision, here are the 7 things to know before choosing a drone inspection provider.
1. Ensure you are engaging an inspection company
There are several companies providing different drone based services. Some are purely for aerial photography which is fairly simple. These may not have the capacity, skills, and experience carrying out detailed inspections which require more expertise and different approach.
That is why it is critical to ensure that you are engaging an actual inspection service provider and not just an aerial photography company. A drone inspections company will have an understanding of the tasks involved and have the expertise to carry out the project according to your requirements.
Most often, the inspection company has the expertise and ability to fly the drones close to the structures while capturing high-quality images that other professionals can use to obtain useful details. This enables the structure or facility owner to get critical information and make better engineering decisions.
Generally, the inspection company carries out the tasks using a team of at least two people. This includes an experienced pilot to control the drone as it hovers over the facility. The other person is usually an experienced inspection engineer who looks at the live video feeds and then controls the cameras to capture the relevant images.
2. Licensed and Competent pilots
In addition to possessing the mandatory qualifications and licenses such as the CAA and FAA, the drone pilots must be competent and highly qualified to undertake complex inspections safely. In case of a complex installation or harsh environment, they need to analyze it and determine all the internal and external risks, especially in the petrochemical, oil and gas inspection. They need to have experience working in difficult weather conditions such as strong winds or working near dangerous installations such as power lines.
Other considerations include the ability to safely operate the drone in low or high-pressure environments as well as manually controlling the drone when it is impossible to use the GPS positioning options.
Companies which perform several inspections in a wide variety of industries will obviously have more experience handling complex inspections. The inspectors in such companies will have more expertise from the field compared to the less busy companies with single or no inspection per month.
3. The provider should have professional grade inspection drones
While a quadcopter is ideal for simple tasks such as aerial photography, they have limitations when it comes to carrying out inspections. These have higher safety risks, especially if a rotor or two fail.
Ideally, the company needs to use a professional grade hexacopter as a minimum; an octocopter is much better. These are safer, and even if a one, two or three rotors fail, there are higher chances of the pilot landing the drone safely.
Another safety consideration is the condition of the devices and equipment for the inspection. It is important to hire a provider who performs regular maintenance and upgrades of their inspection equipment. This prevents the breakdown of the equipment at the site since these will often lead to delays, inaccurate or poor inspection data.
When equipment fails on site, the provider should commit to replace them as soon as possible.
4. Ensure that the provider has the capacity and skills to provide expected results
Depending on the reason for the drone inspection, ensures that the company is capable of delivering. For example, if you need high-quality images of specific areas, the provider needs to have experience and ability carrying out similar tasks.
They should have the right type of drones and sensors such as high-quality cameras to deliver according to the requirements. It is much easier to analyze still images compared to video. But it is also good if the company can provide both. However, the drone needs to be equipped with the best cameras for the tasks.
5. Company must provide the inspection report in required format
An inspection report provides the relevant information that a customer is looking for. In most cases, it forms a basis or a guide for further actions such as maintenance or marketing.
During the inspections, the drones collect large amounts of data from the facilities. This includes hundreds or even thousands of raw images. The provider must present them in a format that the client can access easily and analyze. Normally, a drone inspection software is used during the process.
The results should clearly make it easy to identify the defects and their locations. This eases the repair or maintenance work. It is important to see the kind of reports they provide and see if they align with your requirements or if the company is ready to customize it for your needs.
Additionally, the drone inspection company may have cloud-based reporting platforms. Some have advanced software tools to analyze images and generate reports which a customer can then access and interpret easily from the internet.
With cloud-based systems, a company can provide the hard and soft copies as well as an online version. In some cases, the company can review the inspection reports almost in real time, and probably request for further information when the inspection company is still at the site. In case this is foreseen, the provider must be flexible to accommodate such requests.
6. Adequate resources, experience, and manpower
The aerial inspection provider must have experience performing similar tasks. To confirm this, see the testimonials from previous clients, and if possible ask for references that you can approach and find out how they were served.
Checking with the references is a good way of getting an honest opinion of the provider’s services and ability to deliver on projects.
Find out if the provider has the capacity, skills, and resources to meet your requirements and deadlines. If you plan to carry out the inspections in different locations within a certain period, find out if the inspection company has the capacity or ability to mobilize multiple resources and teams. An ideal company should be able to provide this locally as well as internationally if there is a need.
Research on the drone inspection projects they have undertaken and how they delivered. If possible, compare similar projects from different providers and see who delivers the best and at what cost.
7. Check the company’s aviation audit report and reputation
The aviation department can perform an audit and provide you with an honest report about the company’s operations. This will include their safety records and issues, if any, whether the company trains their staff, and how they carry out their inspections. This will help you understand their approach and whether to trust them with your facility, based on their experience, procedures, and safety records.
While evaluating the company’s competence, see if they can open up about incidences which could have happened. This gives the company an opportunity to express themselves and let you know what they have done to avoid similar occurrences or what they will do in case it happens.
Before you hire a drone inspection service for your facility or complex structure, there are a few things you need to verify with the provider. The company you choose must have the ability and expertise to safely and effectively carry out the exercise without compromising on quality.
About Industrial SkyWorks:
Industrial Skyworks (ISW) is a commercial, Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) and data management solutions company with offices in Houston, Toronto and Trinidad. Founded in 2012 by pilots with backgrounds and expertise in aircraft safety systems, risk management and aeronautical sciences, ISW inspects buildings, and oil and gas infrastructure using small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS). They are the first company ever to receive FAA approval for night-time commercial drone operations and flew the first ever FAA-sanctioned night flight in the U.S., in the Fall of 2016.
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