Drones have long been popular as an aerial photography tool for real estate, helping to sell properties with a unique perspective or location advantage. However, drones are becoming more and more useful a tool for remote inspection.
Drones are the safest method for asset and remote inspection, and statutory audits within the mining, bulk materials handling, and construction industries.
Specialising in the latest drone solutions, two Australian companies have given mining, heavy industry and construction a much faster and safer means to inspect or audit dangerous and inaccessible areas via the use of innovative drone technology.
SOTO Consulting Engineers and aerial photography specialist, Flying Robot, use remotely piloted aircraft (drones), with inbuilt redundancies and the latest in imaging tech to carry out inspections. Multirotor drones allow remote inspection from a distance, eliminating reliance on larger teams of personnel, without the need for rigging or scaffolding and the inherent dangers and man-hours required for both.
In addition, the time-saving benefits offer a more streamlined and consistent process with clear, objective results. It also delivers value to plant proprietors through significant cost savings and the near-elimination of shutdowns for plant audits.
The drone is operated remotely, at a safe base on the ground, by a fully certified Flying Robot pilot alongside a SOTO engineer viewing a FullHD monitor in real-time during the inspection exercise. The safety implications of a two person team are wide ranging, however, the result of using a skilled pilot in combination with a qualified engineer directing the image capture also ensures that the results – whether they are thermal images, high-resolution digital still images or video – are informative and effective tools for audit.
There are multiple drone options available, depending on the structure to be inspected, the surrounding space allowance and the required quality of images produced – anything from 16MP to 42MP in still images is possible. Drone manufacturers have even begun designing and producing specialised inspection aircrafts to accommodate this growing industrial use.
Structures already inspected by the team include bridges, exhaust stacks, roads, elevated conveyors, transmission lines and water towers, however this list is by no means the limit – Flying Robot and SOTO can tailor an inspection drone to meet almost any requirement. Cameras can be attached to the drone either via a top mount or bottom mount camera and whilst standard images are the most common requirement, 180 degree panoramas and full, 360 interactive images are becoming more popular to allow plant operator to gain deeper insight into structures.