Why use a drone for thermal imaging?Anthony
Thermal imaging is an extremely useful tool in many sectors, particularly when identifying issues on roofs and hard to access places. However, surveys at height have traditionally proven problematic due to expense and physical inaccessibility. Surveys at height help identify heat loss in buildings, damp and structural issues. What has been an expensive and often impossible task has been made easier by the use of drones to conduct surveys at height.
Currently drones seem to be the bees knees in many markets. It is a great fad and the attraction of a new technology is compelling and as a result many companies use them for jobs that are inappropriate. However, they are an extremely useful tool for thermal imaging surveys. Manual inspections tend to take time especially if the terrain becomes difficult such as a significant slope.
One sector to benefit from drone use is the Solar photovoltaic market. Thermal surveys are becoming the norm as the drones are now able to fly very accurately due to the GPS controlled automated software. The images captured shows the owner and managers problems and failures (fig 2).
Figure 1- Damp identified on a flat roof
Figure 2- Hot row of cells identified
These two examples above illustrate the three benefits;
- Height – cherry pickers or aircraft could be used but are either not very manoeuvrable (drones can get as close as a metre to the subject of the survey) or very expensive (aircraft can be highly restricted due to CAA rules)
- Speed – once surveying, the drones can cover large areas accurately with average speeds well above that of the ground equivalents
- Computer analytics –reports can be quickly constructed and timely remedies to the surveyed areas can implemented. These programmes are becoming more and more advanced with many additional features constantly being upgraded. Furthermore, they also include the automation and control of the drone, leading to greater accuracy.
However, as with all technologies, there are restrictions that need to be taken into account.
- CAA rules and regulations – All commercial pilots are required by law to be CAA qualified. Additionally, there are physical flight restrictions that need to be adhered to.
- Weather -wind and rain are issues with drones. However, some of the bigger drones are partially protected against this.
- Flight time -Anticipate maximum flight times are about half an hour or less depending on the drone type, and the recharging time for batteries is much longer.
ThermoSurvey has the ability to conduct a wide range of thermal and visual surveys. With the latest state of the art equipment and CAA qualified pilots, the company has mitigated against many of the restrictions mentioned above.
Overall the technology is developing extremely fast and what would have taken days now can be done within 24 hours. Once the raw data is acquired, the analytical tools provide a very wide array of valuable results.