Conducting Effective Visual Inspections Through the Use of Drones
Of late, a vast number of industries are making use of drone visual inspections as part of its maintenance procedures. Inspections that were traditionally conducted through climbing a few stories, or through the utilisation of scaffolding, and, as is the case with the inspection being referred to in this article, through the use of a thermal camera, a drone can be sent instead to conduct inspections. These drone inspections, often referred to as visual inspections, assist with the collection of visual data (images) which are later processed and analysed with software to provide insight on the overall performance of the sight being inspected. Physical inspections can take anything between 45 minutes to 4 hours, whereas with the use of a drone, they can be concluded in minutes. Nafasi Za Angani achieves this by capturing images that give the client a vivid and concise perspective of the space that is being inspected. One of the many inspections we have undertaken on, was that of the N.H.C Health Centre in Centurion, where we conducted a site visit and flights for the purposes of inspecting a Solar Panel Monitoring platform.
SCOPE OF THE INSPECTION
The site visit and flights conducted were for the purposes of testing a business case regarding a Solar Panel monitoring platform.
Figure 1: An oblique digital image of the N.H.C Health Centre
For the purposes of data collection, a dual camera was used, comprising of a thermal camera alongside a digital camera. For this inspection, a lot of the data captured was sourced from thermal images. The pictures were processed and analysed with software to provide some meaningful insight of the overall performance of the solar panel infrastructure.
Figure 2 (left) depicts an overall evaluation of the orientation of the building and how efficiency is affected.
Figure 3 (right) is a thermal image depicting North facing and East Facing comparison.
It provides an overview of the heat distribution of the entire building.
The successful capturing of these images was able to provide information indicating that the panels which are north facing are receiving maximum exposure whilst other sections on the roof are positioned in a manner that presents partial shading. Partial shading is also a limiting factor to the maximum output that can be produced.
The use of drones for this inspection not only made it possible for Nafasi to evaluate a large solar area in a fraction of the time and cost from high up in the air, but thanks to its high sensitivity features, it made it possible to track cell defects and obtain accurate readings of other specific problem areas that otherwise, could not have been identified.
Figure 4: A digital image captured on the bottom section of the panels, indicating that dust accumulation was also evident on the solar panel system.
BENEFITS OF THERMAL IMAGING/ DRONE THERMAL IMAGING:
Uncovering hidden issues – Thermal Imaging can indicate potential problems and potential defects within the heat spread of (for example) a building.
Almost no downtime – Thermal Imaging Drone Inspection work can be carried out without having to cordon off an area/ site.
Difficult Access Environment – Thermal Imaging provides access into difficult to reach, confined spaces. It also comes in handy in low-light and low-visibility environments.
Non-Invasive – Thermal imaging inspection using aerial drones can provide a non-invasive, non-contact inspection that covers areas in detail as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
Safer – Not only is it more convenient and faster, but it is also a safer method of problem diagnosis/ condition detection.
Data comparison – Multiple thermal imaging inspections can be overlaid and compared to highlight any developing/ developed issues.
Cost Savings – Early detection minimises the need for timeous repairs and maintenance bills.
Health & Safety – Reduces the risk of occupational health & safety in the workplace- workers do not need to be physically present in a setting (such as high buildings and construction sites, were safety precautions need to be continually observed) for the inspection to take place.
Bearing in mind the efficiency that comes with using drones for inspections, the improved safety for those performing these inspections, as well as the quick turn around time it takes to perform these inspections (which traditionally took hours to complete), using drones to conduct inspections should, without a question be the new norm that industries embrace.