Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are being used across commercial industries as a more efficient and cost-effective option. In particular, the potential for drone use in the utility industry has grown tremendously.
Utilities across the country are beginning to see the vast potential for drones to reduce costs, improve safety, increase reliability, and more quickly analyze malfunctions. While utilities currently conduct most maintenance operations by manual, visual inspection, new developments within the FAA have helped to pave the way toward more cost-effective UAS-based infrastructure maintenance.
Here are the top seven reasons why the utilities industry can significantly benefit from commercial drone technology.
Until recently, methods of surveying, detecting and locating leaks and repair issues have been inefficient and costly to conduct. Drones can help reduce the expense of carrying out inspections, especially in the case of hard to reach equipment, power lines, gas lines, railroads, and highways. It has been estimated that drones could cut aerial inspections costs up to 50 percent.
UAS applications allow for safe 3D mapping of drill sites, gas pipelines, landfills, and other hazardous municipal operations. Researchers have concluded that the use of drones could improve worker safety for routine inspections ranging from remote areas to dense cities, and for surveying damage to energy networks after natural disasters, etc.
Drones offer speedier data retrieval than traditional ground or air (i.e. helicopter) observation. A single drone provides a much quicker way to capture the same type of data and photos that two or three workers would take several hours to produce. Moreover, drones can digitize that data and turn it into something operators on the ground can analyze almost instantly.
Drone functions like imagery, mapping, and LIDAR, a surveying technology that uses a laser light to measure distances, could help reduce the difficulty of inspecting hard-to-reach areas. UAS equipped with cameras can access difficult to reach areas for closer visual inspections than humans have been able to previously, due to visual line-of-sight and safety reasons.
The innovative things that utilities do with the data they capture will create a competitive advantage for their organization. Drones can glide over rugged terrain, where it’s hard for utility workers to get around, and send back images showing the condition of power lines and pipelines to flag major issues to the ground team. UAS can also obtain more detailed images because they’re able to hover in the air longer than standard helicopter fly-bys.
UAS applications can significantly reduce the environmental impact of certain utility operations, from wind turbine inspections to long-range deliveries. Methane sensors, for example, can be used to detect and measure methane gas leaks and reduce methane emissions.
Effective use of resources is an essential part of business sustainability. For staying on schedule, making quick and accurate decisions, or assessing an important situation, drone services may be the solution your organization’s needs.
Interest in drone technology by utilities industries is growing at a rapid pace. This relatively new application for utilities seems positioned to become a best practice as UAS usage is woven into more projects.
Featured image: pixabay/Pexels
Kevin Gallagher is co-founder, CEO and president of Simulyze, Inc., a provider of commercial off the shelf (COTS) data analysis, correlation, integration and visualization products. With more than 30 years of industry experience, Kevin is an expert in operational intelligence and how it can be leveraged in commercial drone operations as a key tool for safely integrating in to the National Airspace. For more information, visit www.simulyze.com.
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