DRONE INSPECTION

smarter asset management

What is a drone inspection?

Cut costs. Increased Efficiency. Reduce Risk.

Save 'Millions Of Pounds A Day'

Drones have become crucial tools for inspection - collecting accurate data safely and quickly, resulting in huge cost-savings, deeper insights, and more informed decision-making.

Companies around the world have seen this potential and are harnessing the power of the technology.          

A drone inspection is the process of using an unmanned aircraft to assess an asset. In this case, drones literally become the eyes of the inspector.

Drones have the advantage of reaching places that are difficult, expensive, dangerous, live, or even impossible to access by manned inspection teams, and they can be used for indoor, underground, onshore, or offshore purposes.

A drone can inspect an array of assets, such as wind turbines, flare stacks, building facades, railways, and crops.

Inspection drones are being deployed across a range of industries, such as oil and gas, energy, agriculture, critical infrastructure, public safety, and mining.  

Cost Savings
 
The DJI M300 RTK and H20 camera saved global oil giant Shell $100,000 on a single job.
Efficiency Gains
 
Drones can collect solar panel data more than 50x faster than manual methods.
Quality Data
 
Drone inspections in the energy industry deliver a higher level of detail, says Measure.
Reduced Risk
 
"Drones increase safety and remove employees from hazardous areas," - Rio Tinto.

drone inspection benefits

How drones improve your inspection missions.

Using a drone for inspections has multiple benefits. These include:

  • Reduce Risk: The inspection team no longer has to be put into potentially dangerous situations, such as working at height. The drone can collect the data for you, with your staff safely on the ground and away from hazardous areas.
  • Cut Costs: Drones save money in many ways - from requiring less manpower through to removing the need to erect scaffolding or pay for a cherry picker. 
  • Minimise Downtime: Keep operations and assets open and running while critical inspections are conducted. Reducing, or even removing downtime, can save huge amounts of money.                      
  • Increase Efficiency: Drone inspections dramatically increase the amount of time it takes to inspect an asset, or assets.
  • More Inspections: Generally speaking, a drone inspection provides a more cost-effective and efficient inspection solution - enabling more frequent checks. This in turn means that any problems can be identified and remedied a lot quicker. 
  • Better Data: Drones collect quality data, which can be archived to create a detailed record of an asset's lifecycle. Drones can conduct automated, repeatable missions, ensuring the data is consistent each time - especially vital for regular and comparative checks.
  • Versatility: Certain drones, like the M300 RTK, can be integrated with a range of different payloads to collect a variety of data, such as thermal, zoom, and LiDAR. In the case of the M300 RTK and H20T payload, utilise the camera's quad-sensor array of thermal, wide angle, zoom and laser rangefinder, to maximise data collection and increase mission efficiency.
"In offshore installations, one point of continuous interest is that of the flare/gas vent structure. Any kind of close inspection of the boom or tip needs a rope access team and as a result, a platform-wide shutdown is put into place for the safety of the team, halting any further production of oil/gas until it is completed. Alternatively, the team has to wait for an opportunity for a shutdown to be initialised before they can conduct the inspection. This can cost millions per day. But by using a drone, an inspection can be conducted at any time, as a skilled pilot can safely fly around these structures during full operation, knowing how to keep away from any flare or gas exposure, meaning the platform can continue its production and not miss out on potential millions."

Tim Harris, RUAS


Why Do This...?

  • Dangerous
  • Time-consuming
  • Labour intensive
  • Varied levels of data accuracy, for both single and repeatable inspections

...Or This...?

  • Very expensive
  • Noisy
  • High costs = less frequent inspections
  • Fast speeds / difficult camera angles = missed data

...When You Can Do This?

  • Cost-effective
  • Fast, efficient, and safe
  • Range of cameras for varied data collection
  • Autonomous flights = repeatable/accurate data collection
"With demonstrated inspection time per wind turbine of 15-30 minutes, drones reduce man-hours and turbine downtime for maintenance checks by over 75%. One energy company realised a 95% ROI for drone inspections on wind farms by way of cost savings and increased efficiencies."

The Case For Drones In Energy - a White Paper by Measure

types of drone inspection

Collect a variety of data.

Accurate Information. Deeper Insights.

Drones are a versatile solution, able to utilise an array of different cameras to capture a diverse range of data for inspection purposes. 

This enables deeper insights for more informed decision-making and a more efficient response. 

Types of drone inspection include:          

Visual Drone Inspections

A visual survey will make up the vast majority of drone inspection missions.

This type of survey is very much what it sounds like - a thorough visual check of each part of an asset, whether it be a power line, wind turbine, or a building. 

In this case, the drone's camera becomes the operator's eyes and the imagery can be collected during a short drone flight and then reviewed in detail later on.

Using a drone for this type of inspection removes the need to erect scaffolding or close down an asset.

Zoom Camera Drone Surveys

A key part of a visual survey is using a zoom camera to home in on an area of interest. This has numerous advantages.

Using a zoom camera delivers a higher level of detail, enabling inspectors to find small defects, rust, or missing parts - all without needing to shut down the operation.

Utilising zoom helps acquire this data from afar, avoiding hazardous and laborious manhours involved with climbing, and keeping personnel away from potentially dangerous situations.

Thermal Drone Inspections

Drone thermal imagery is powerful, especially for utility and building inspections. 

Operators are able to spot missing or damaged installation, water under roof membranes, external electrical issues, failed windows, and many other problems.

In the case of solar panel inspections, drones with thermal cameras can identify manufacturing defects, cracks, faulty inter-connectors, and temporary shadowing.

One of the most powerful aspects of a thermal camera is that it can detect and highlight problems which can be missed during a visual inspection.

This data helps operators make informed and timely decisions to bring about efficient resolutions.

HazMat Drone Surveys

HazMat inspection is a risky business - dealing with volatile and toxic materials.

Drones are helping with this type of inspection by reducing the need for humans to access the site.

Drones can carry specialist detectors to help with HazMat inspections, identifying things such as vapour, chemicals and radiation.

This reduces the number of entries staff need to make, in turn improving safety and improving the speed of the inspection.

Drones are able to stream footage or collect information which can be shared remotely to help with decision-making, while improving safety.

Photogrammetry and Drone Mapping

Photogrammetry is a popular drone surveying technique and it can be a useful application for inspections.

Photogrammetry is the process of capturing high-resolution imagery and stitching these pictures together in specialist software to create accurate digital twins of the real world. 

This technique can be used to build detailed and georeferenced 2D orthomosaics and 3D models.

These offer highly-accessible visuals of an inspection area, and can be used to conduct measurements, such as calculating stockpiles. This data can be quickly shared with team members and stakeholders.

For these reasons, photogrammetry has become a crucial tool for inspections, capturing aerial visualisations, tracking changes, and monitoring progress on a job site, for example.

LiDAR Drone Inspections

Drone LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is a useful tool in the inspection toolbox.

LiDAR sends out thousands of pulses of light every second to help build accurate 3D models of the world.

This can be useful for a variety of inspection missions. Take powerlines, for instance. LiDAR point clouds can be used to provide accurate data about the location and height of everything on the map, and can be utilised to measure the distance between trees and powerlines.

LiDAR is extremely powerful as it can be used at night, and is especially effective in areas of dense vegetation, as LiDAR pulses are able to penetrate gaps between leaves and branches to reach ground level.

Because LiDAR emits thousands of pulses, it can be used to build robust data sets, helping to pick up smaller objects on a data set, such as overhead cables.

drone inspection BY INDUSTRY

How drones are benefiting the world of work.

Commercial Uses For Inspection Drones

The benefits of drone inspections are clear, but how are UAVs helping specific industries? 

The section below explores drone inspection use-cases across the enterprise sector and the types of inspection they are conducting.

Oil And Gas Drone Inspections

Drones help professionals in the oil and gas industry to inspect and manage assets, such as refineries, storage tanks, offshore rigs and chimneys/smokestacks, with minimal downtime and without compromising staff safety.

Unmanned aircraft can be used to conduct refinery infrastructure inspections to help identify faults or weaknesses. Prior to drones, either helicopters would be required to examine flare systems or scaffolding would need to be erected for staff to inspect high structures - both costly, while the latter is also dangerous,

Drones can also be deployed for pipeline integrity management. They can quickly cover vast stretches of pipeline - especially useful when flying over complex and undulating terrain - helping to identify leakages or anomalies. 

Drones can prevent plant shutdowns, cut routine maintenance time and perform inspections without having to halt operations. This is a major benefit, as every second of downtime is lost revenue.

Drones can help to:

  • Evaluate the operation of refinery flares;
  • Assess steam systems;
  • Identify weak points in structures;
  • Pinpoint failures in flanges;
  • Reveal deformations.
“Oil and gas refineries could potentially lose millions of dollars a day if they are forced to halt services. Using drones, oil refineries can prevent plant shutdowns, cut routine maintenance time, perform inspections without having to halt operations, and reduce the amount of money and resources needed to complete missions. Drones eliminate having to carry out inspections using scaffolds, which can be expensive and dangerous. With incredible flight software available, plant operators can obtain valuable information quickly, helping them to make crucial decisions more accurately."

Felipe Vadillo, professional aircraft engineer 

Drones For Energy Inspection

Drones can be utilised across the energy sector. Below, we focus on how drones are helping to inspect powerlines, wind turbines and solar panels.

Drone Powerline Inspection

Drones offer an effective solution to inspect and manage powerlines, with improved speed, efficiency, and safety - all while reducing manhours and costs. 

Conducting an automated drone inspection can save 30 to 50% of the cost and time , compared to alternative methods. 

After all, traditional methods are costly, laborious and dangerous. Using a helicopter is expensive, noisy, ecologically-unfriendly, and complex, while manual methods can be dangerous, slow, and hindered by difficult terrain.

Drones change all of this. And they are particularly suited to powerline inspection as they help cover large areas quickly and are an ideal tool for repeat inspections; typical of the powerline inspection industry.           

Using a drone, powerline inspectors can:          

  • Assess the condition of all components of a powerline without workers ascending to height;
  • Cover large areas quicker - increasing the number of powerlines inspected - and reach difficult-to-access locations;
  • Inspections are conducted from a safe distance, with drone cameras such as zoom, thermal, LiDAR and 4K imagery providing key insights - all while staff keep their boots on the ground;
  • Real-time data for informed and rapid insights and decision-making;
  • Easily automate missions - ideal for efficiency, conducting repeatable flights, and for gathering more reliable year-on-year comparison data;
  • Higher-resolution visual inspections than ground-based inspections;
  • Towers remain functional during inspection.

Drone Wind Turbine Inspection

Drone inspection can provide a visual and/or thermographic image of the state of a wind turbine's components.

Using a drone to inspect wind turbines has multiple benefits, including a safe working environment, reduced downtime, high quality images and video,  access to otherwise inaccessible areas, and dynamic surveying. It is also more cost-effective and yields more precise data than deploying helicopters for the same task.

The image above shows how a drone with a zoom camera can be used to home in on all aspects of the turbine - so close that you can even see the serial number. This capability enables inspectors to quickly identify any defects from afar.

Meanwhile, thermal cameras can be used to check for structural issues and weaknesses in the blade. The temperature profile of the blade surface, for instance, indicates potential defects. As such, thermal imagery is useful for uncovering hidden defects and failures.

Inspecting Solar Panels With Drones

One statistic says it all: Drones can collect solar panel data more than 50x faster than manual methods.

Drones with thermal cameras can perform a full solar farm operation in a matter of hours, compared to days using manual methods - increasing data quantity and quality and reducing costs.

In fact, a white paper by Measure states that a solar farm inspection by drone costs up to 46% less than a manual inspection .

A thermal camera can help identify manufacturing defects, cracks, faulty inter-connectors, defective bypass diodes and temporary shadowing.

Drones can also be used to collect RGB data, alongside thermal imagery, to help with quantitative and qualitative analysis - both essential for understanding defects on solar panels.

"Drone inspections within the energy industry can deliver a higher level of detail - missing pins, rust, damaged insulators – compared to typical ground or helicopter patrols, while also avoiding the hazardous manhours involved with climbing. The cost of equipment, training, software, and support for an internal drone programme pays for itself 5x over with just 50 miles of utility lines inspected, plus one substation inspection."

The Case For Drones In Energy - a White Paper by Measure

Utilities And Infrastructure Inspections

Utilities and infrastructure is a broad term, but it covers assets such as roads, bridges, telecommunication towers, and railways, among other things.

Drones are being deployed in this sector to perform regular maintenance checks or following natural disasters - such as hurricanes or floods - where the condition of the asset is unknown, but could have suffered damage.

As with other industries, one of the key advantages of using drones for utilities and infrastructure inspections is the ability to capture quality data quickly, safely, and relatively cheaply. For instance, there is no need for personnel to be clambering up a telecommunications tower - the drone can do this instead.

When it comes to bridge inspections, there's no need to use heavy plant machinery, as drones can collect the required data in one flight, or a series of flights, and can do follow-up inspections more regularly because of the ease and cost-effectiveness of their use. These flights can also be automated.

Drones can also be used for project updates. Balfour Beatty used drones on a major Smart Motorway development, regularly flying the 13.6-mile mile stretch to keep track of progress and spot for mistakes. Imagine how much more difficult and time-consuming this would have been without a drone.

Drones can inspect:

  • Utility towers;
  • Bridges;
  • Roads;
  • Railways.
"Drones are a cost-effective solution for close-up inspections of difficult-to-access structures. Carrying out inspections by air means we can keep the railway open and our people safe – trains can continue to run, and as we’re not sending engineers onto tracks, it improves safety."

Network Rail

Construction Drone Inspections

The construction industry is the fastest growing adopter of commercial drones, and inspection plays a significant role. 

Deploying drones for construction can save hundreds of thousands of pounds during a project lifecycle and can be far more efficient than traditional methods - taking a matter of hours to collect data, instead of days, in some cases.

Drones can be used in the construction industry for monitoring onsite progress, checking for mistakes, measuring stockpiles, and comparing the real-life build compared to the design plans. 

As a result of drone inspections, companies are able to build 2D orthomosaic maps or 3D models for highly-detailed and accurate visual representations of the project. These digital twins can be quickly and easily shared with staff and stakeholders for improved communication and decision-making.          

Drones can also be deployed to inspect the job site for any security or maintenance issues, such as a damaged section of perimeter fence or using a thermal camera to detect an over-heating tank, for instance. 

As a consequence, drones help construction companies stay on schedule, reduce costs, improve communication, and keep workers safe.

"Because of drones and their associated software, data can be collected from a site in half-an-hour, compared to three days using traditional hand-held methods. Drones enable firms to create highly accurate maps and point clouds, discover costly job-site mistakes, and predict schedule delays, saving up to tens of thousands of pounds per week."

Richard Clement, Komatsu

Drone Building Inspection

'Drone imagery helps us better manage assets'

Drones can be used to inspect building façades. 

They are particularly useful for rooftop inspections, collecting this data quickly without having to send staff up a height. 

The bird's eye view from a drone can also reveal information about a building which was not obvious from the ground, while thermal cameras can help to detect energy waste problems and help focus the inspector's attention, allowing a proper diagnosis of the key areas of loss.

The image shows a 3D model of a building captured by the DJI Phantom 4 RTK by the City of Henderson Engineering Department, USA.

Engineering Technician, Logan Tyndall, said: "These maps can be used for roof inspections of abandoned buildings and occupied buildings. From the street, these buildings do not appear to be in a bad condition, but the aerial imagery tells a different story.

"By having this high-resolution imagery, we can better manage our assets without even having to put boots on the ground."

Agriculture Drone Surveying

Drones have quickly emerged as a vital tool for agriculture, replacing the age-old method of farmers manually walking their fields to monitor and inspect their crops.

Thanks to drones and their sophisticated array of sensors, farmers are able to increase crop production, monitor and inspect crop growth, build a richer picture of their fields, improve farming efficiency, and maximise outputs. 

For instance, farmers can build 3D models of their land to better understand irrigation conditions, or use a drone to provide regular updates of crop conditions in far-flung locations on a large farm.          

Drones are able to achieve these insights far quicker than walking the field and, compared to deploying manned aviation, are a far more accessible and cost-effective method. This data can also be collected over time, enabling farmers to compare crop patterns across seasons or years.          

Drones provide real-time insights and are non-evasive to crops.

Assets For Inspection Include:

    • Crops;
    • Irrigation;
    • Land conditions;
    • Soil health;
    • Livestock.
"Efficient control of weeds in a farming operation is critical. Knowing when and where to apply herbicide can provide significant savings, not only in preventing damage to the crop, but in minimising the amount of product that is purchased and applied. Remote sensing technology can help growers assess the effectiveness of the treatments, identify problem areas, and implement corrective actions as needed.”

MicaSense and Dynamic Wings

Public Safety Drone Programmes

Public safety officials are increasingly using drones for inspection purposes.

UAVs are powerful during a live incident, thanks to their ability to provide real-time footage and vital situational awareness, helping shape a more effective response and keep crews away from danger.

The partial dam wall collapse at Whaley Bridge in 2019 demonstrated this. Derbyshire Constabulary deployed a DJI drone, with zoom camera, to inspect the situation, and monitor the extent of the damage. Without the drone, somebody would have had to go up close to the damage - scaling a rope down the dam to have a look and putting their life at risk. 

As the picture shows, police also used the drone to check where bags of aggregate were placed by RAF Chinooks to sure-up the damaged section and look for any breaches - providing instant, real-time and up-close information thanks to the zoom.          

Officials can also deploy drones to inspect a crime scene or conduct crash-scene investigations.

Public safety drone inspections include:

  • Visual data collection of ongoing incidents, such as fires;
  • Vital situational awareness to help deploy resources in the most safe and efficient way;
  • Deploying after an event, such as inspecting areas destroyed by wildfires, for example;
  • Accident reconstruction;
  • Inspecting public spaces like stadia or festival fields for security concerns or pre-event planning.
"Using a drone for crash-scene investigation and accident reconstruction is about a hundred times more detailed than what we could do with people manually taking the measurements. And it means that there’s much less time for the road to be closed and traffic to be backed up."

Chief Deputy Jeff Lower of the Tazewell County, Illinois Sheriff's Office

Mining Drone Inspections 

The mining industry is one of the fastest adopters of drone technology, and it is easy to see why.

Mines are dangerous and hostile environments, so drones enable fast and accurate data collection, while keeping employees safe.

Drones also enable access to the inaccessible, which in turn helps to stimulate better planning and decision-making.

Drone inspections can be utilised throughout the lifecycle of a mining operation, from mapping areas of interest and potential blast sites during the exploration stage, through to documenting equipment during construction, and detailing the final site on closure.

But their most common and practical use is during the operation phase. Drone inspections provide a bird's eye view of the site, showing general progress, assessing haul roads, highlighting any stability hazards or illegal mining activity, and monitoring pit and dump management. 

They can also be used to inspect on-site assets, providing real-time information in the process. These inspection assets include:

  • Open Stope: Support backfilling operations by exploring restricted areas such as excavated open stopes. Understand ground conditions without putting staff at risk.
  • Drop Raise: Identify clogging by flying down a dusty, wet and rocky drop raise in an underground mine.
  • Stockpile Feeder: Assess the integrity and plan for maintenance by flying through the stockpile hole, collecting visuals.
  • Conveyor Belt: No need to disturb the operation and stop ongoing excavation; use the drone to assess the integrity of conveyor belts.
  • Blast Areas: Produce cost-effective and accessible 3D reconstructions and surface models for areas to be blasted or drilled - helping to better plan resources.
"We use DJI drones for a lot of survey and inspection work, helping to improve decision-making and optimising inspections. Drones help the mining industry for a number of reasons, including increased safety, removing employees from hazardous areas, and increasing cost savings. We use drones for a range of operations, including reality modelling, asset management and drill/blast analysis. For us, UAVs are another tool in the tool box."

Andrew Carey, of Rio Tinto Kennecott Utah Copper

Chemical Inspections with Drones

Drone inspections within the chemical industry have one major benefit: They reduce the need for humans to be exposed to potentially harmful materials. 

This is key, because inspection within the chemical industry is an important task. Any leak caused by a poorly-maintained storage container could result in serious consequences. For instance, chemicals leaking into a watercourse or earth could lead to serious health issues to people in the surrounding area.  

Therefore, drones can be used to quickly and safely inspect the integrity of a chemical company's assets. And as a drone reduces the need for staff to get up close to tanks or containers, there is less need to have to build time-consuming and expensive scaffolding.

Drones can be used to inspect the following assets:    

  • Pipe racks;
  • Cables;
  • Fermenter tanks;
  • Storage tanks;
  • Suction ducts;
  • Heat exchangers;
  • Storage silos and bins.
"A number of benefits are associated with using drones: Increased safety margins; reduced risk; improved efficiency — getting more work done in less time, with fewer people, and saving money; and delivering high quality data more quickly — typically within minutes of completion. In one case, we used a drone to inspect the fin tubes in the convection section to determine whether or not carbon dioxide blasting was needed to clean them and restore their efficiency. The drone data helped determine that we could forego the cleaning at this outage — a very significant saving."

Larry Barnard, El Segundo Refinery

Insurance Sector Drone Inspections

A drone is a useful tool for insurance claims, particularly after a natural disaster or an event such as a fire.

Drones have the advantage of being able to safely access damaged or dangerous areas, and collect unique aerial views of a disaster zone.

High-resolution visual imagery can be quickly collected by drones and easily shared with insurance companies, providing a true and clear record of the damage to help validate an insurance claim. 

For example, the 2018 Camp Fire was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California's history, and the most expensive natural disaster in the world for that year in terms of insured losses.

Following the incident, drone maps of entire neighbourhoods were created, enabling homeowners to submit the imagery to insurance providers to immediately process claims -  a process that traditionally could take days or weeks. Many also used the imagery to gain access to FEMA relief funds for the families affected by the fires.

The same happened in the wake of Hurricane Irma, which hit Cape Verde. Extensive damage to properties meant that claim adjusters needed to inspect each structure and estimate the cost of repairs before insurance companies could begin to help the island’s residents get back on their feet.

From the ground, this would have taken months. But by using drone maps to assess the structural damage caused by the hurricane, insurance inspectors shortened that process to days  -  all while improving safety, data collection and turnaround time for the claims process.

As well as disaster areas, drones can be used to inspect the following for insurance claims:

  • Car accident scenes;
  • Farms / crop damage;
  • Buildings and related infrastructure on an insured site.
"Following the wild fire, we used drones to take 10,000 photographs from low level and stitched them together into an orthomosaic map so the citizens who lived there and couldn't get back in could take a look at that map down to their street address and they could see what had happened to their property without going into a danger zone. We learnt that mapping was really important as part of an integrated emergency management strategy."

Commander Tom Madigan, Alameda County Sheriff's Office

Scientific Drone Inspections

Drones are being deployed by academics and professionals to conduct inspection missions within the field of science.

Volcano Inspections: Drones are changing the way that scientists can sample and survey previously inaccessible volcanic plumes, acquire information which was limited through ground-based techniques, and conduct short-range gas checks. Using drones for this type of study helps to protect local communities by obtaining key information about volcanic activity, and makes inspections safer and more accessible. Read the full case study here.

Inspecting Radiation Levels At Chernobyl: Drones have been used to complete comprehensive inspections of Chernobyl's Red Forest - one of the most radioactive locations on Earth. Drones helped to provided up-to-date information on the sites with the greatest contamination and also revealed previously undetected radiation hotspots. Using drones allowed scientists to investigate hazardous places from a safe distance. UAVs also helped the team cover large areas quickly. Read the full case study here.

"Drones are changing the way we study and inspect volcanoes and have enormous potential for monitoring volcanic hazards. Many areas of the volcano are too dangerous to reach on foot, so we used drone technology to get our instruments close enough for direct measurements."

Dr Emma Liu, University of Cambridge

confined space drone inspections

Access the inaccessible.

Better Data Collection - Made Safer

Drones are a sensible solution for confined space inspections.

Typically, these inspections - in industries such as oil and gas, construction, and mining - have been challenging. Traditionally, such tasks are usually dangerous, time-consuming and costly.

Confined space inspection presents plenty of risk, such as workers getting trapped and being exposed to toxic gases and chemicals, while the limited area may hinder the inspection itself. 

To overcome these challenges, drones have emerged as a go-to solution to access and inspect confined spaces such as pipes, ducts, chimneys, and tunnels. The advantages of using drones for confined space inspections include:  

  • Reduced inspection costs and time
  • Easy to transport to the field
  • Able to access tiny areas and spaces
  • Better maintenance and reduced downtime of the asset
  • Flexibility and ability to collect comprehensive data
  • Improved safety

heliguy™ Mavic 2 Drone Cage

A key part of carrying out a confined drone inspection is having suitable protection for your aircraft.

Designed by our in-house R&D team, heliguy™ has built a lightweight and robust cage for the DJI Mavic 2 drone series.

The cage is ideal for internal and confined space drone inspections, accessing hard-to-reach areas, and enhancing flight safety.

This collision-proof solution ensures drone operators can maximise missions, and subsequent data collection, in hostile places and tight spaces.

It is an affordable entry to the market, offering a more cost-effective solution compared to other caged drones.

Highlights:

  • Collision-proof: This robust cage will protect your drone from bumps, scrapes, and collisions during missions.
  • Versatile: Compatible with the DJI Mavic 2 Series, utilise features on these drones, such as a spotlight, thermal sensor, or zoom camera. 
  • Lightweight: The cage weighs 230g. Your drone can be attached quickly and easily to the frame - which is a simple out-of-the-box solution - for rapid deployment.
  • Enterprise Tool: The cage can be deployed across a range of industries, from industrial inspection through to public safety. Inspect objects up close and access tough-to-reach areas and confined spaces - while reducing risk and increasing mission efficiency.

INSPECTION DRONES - CASE STUDIES

How drones are being used in the real world for inspections.

30% Efficiency Savings Using DJI M300 RTK

Valmont Industries has achieved dramatic efficiency savings using drone technology - or more specifically, flying the DJI M300 RTK with H20T camera.

The company has to inspect more than 2,000 inspection poles, covering 12,000 square miles. Using the drone has the following advantages:

  • Increased Efficiency: The drone can inspect up to 12 poles a day, compared to four with a crane crew. The M300 RTK's endurance also helps to increase the number of poles that can be inspected during any one day.
  • Comparable Data: Using the AI SpotCheck feature on the H20 Series camera, the crew can conduct the same flight repeatedly. This enables them to compare apples to apples, to see if there has been any significant changes to the structure over multiple years.
  • Increased Zoom: The H20T has a 23x hybrid optical zoom, and 200x max zoom. This increased zoom enables the team to spot smaller defects, helping to check for missing elements, such as nuts and bolts.  
"Drones are changing the inspection industry. They make the inspection more efficient and faster. We have a lot of poles to inspect, but we can do it in a lot less time with drones compared to traditional methods."

Valmont Utilities Staff

Global Oil Giant Shell Benefiting From Drone Data 

The team at Shell Deer Park, US, has been deploying drones on site since 2016 to inspect and maintain the industrial equipment - reducing the need for daunting dangerous climbs, and improving safety and cutting inspection costs.

Flare tips and floating roof tanks are among the key assets which require scheduled inspections; a process made easier, safer and more efficient with a drone. After all, their condition and activity are difficult to assess from ground level.

More recently, the team has deployed the M300 RTK with H20 camera - with outstanding results, especially when inspecting structures and navigating steam pipe systems.

  • 23x Optical Zoom: The team has been able to obtain close-up views of each asset from a safe distance, without sacrificing image quality. 
  • Omnidirectional Obstacle Avoidance: When inspecting pipe racks, for example, the M300 RTK can self-correct and fly between objects before coming down to the correct altitude. No longer does the team have to worry about the drone stopping after detecting an obstacle and putting the pilot in a difficult situation.
  • Extended Flight Time: The M300 RTK can stay airborne for 45 minutes when flying with the H20. This is particularly ideal for demanding missions, and obtaining as much data as possible during a single flight. The ability to hot-swap the drone's TB60 batteries without disrupting the mission is also a great timesaver.
  • AI SpotCheck:  Automate missions to collect repeatable data on each flight; particularly useful for regular inspections of the same asset. It means there is no more guesswork; the team can obtain the same picture of the same tank every week, making it easier to compare issues and make smarter maintenance decisions. 
  • Health Management System: This system simplifies fleet maintenance and keeps tabs on each aircraft's flight data over time. The team can now better understand their fleet's performance and make data-driven decisions around servicing.
"Steam system leaks and other abnormal situations require an eye in the sky. Procedures are in place to ensure the drone team is in the loop when they do crop up. We’ll get a phone call or it’ll be mentioned in the site’s morning meeting. I’ll hear first hand what the engineers need and we can quickly put a mission plan together, do the risk assessments, and have a drone up in the air within 20-30 minutes and things can be assessed in real time.” 

John McClain, Chief Drone Pilot at Shell Deer Park

Saving The Client Time And Money

Drone services provider, Terra Drone Europe (formerly Skeye BV), utilises drones for offshore inspections - benefiting from enhanced safety and increased efficiency. 

Working on behalf of a major oil company, and deploying the DJI M200 drone with the Z30 zoom camera, Skeye BV achieved the following:

  • Time Saving: The drone inspections lasted several weeks, but saved several months of laborious inspections with rope access. Following assessment of the drone imagery, Rope Access teams were called upon to repair the defects.
  • Access All Areas: The M200 was used to inspect external features, while an alternative drone was used for confined space inspections. This ensured all areas were inspected, including difficult-to-access areas. 
  • No Downtime: Terra Drone needed to inspect flare stacks. The drone offered a safe inspection solution without impacting operations on the platform - providing a full inspection on the flare stacks while they were operational.
"The M200 is a main stay in the fleet after proving its worth over the last year of offshore operations. When equipped with the Z30 payload, the reliability and results are outstanding. It makes our surveys extremely safe as we can fly further away from structures and get better results than previous cameras without a zoom capability. The data produced from these flights was significant and makes data management and interpretation extremely efficient and comprehensive."

Patrick Rickerby, Terra Drone Europe

Drones For Rooftop Inspections          

This image shows the power of using a drone and zoom camera for roof inspection work.

Quayle Industries utilised the DJI M210 V2 with the Z30 to conduct the assessment: The top image shows the view high above the building, while the bottom photograph is a crystal clear picture of two of the chimneys, as captured using the zoom. 

This technique enabled the inspection to be completed without having to send team members onto the roof, improving safety. This data was captured with boots firmly on the ground!

Consequently, it was also a great timesaver, as the information was collected far quicker than by manual methods. Imagine how much slower the process would be if scaffolding needed to be erected, followed by someone having to climb to the top and manually take photographs - not to mention dangerous and costly!

This inspection method did not scrimp on quality either, with the Z30 picking up every detail of the two chimneys - helping to drive decision-making, and remedies, where needed.

"If you need an asset inspection, then drones can take high-definition photos which show you the condition of the property. This is perfect for roofs and other hard-to-access areas. For roof inspections, you will be able to see if there are broken tiles, the build-up of moss or other damage. And after the repair has been carried out, an aerial inspection will show if the repair has been carried out correctly. By using a drone, you negate the need for elevated work platforms or scaffolding - reducing costs, time and most importantly, risk." 

Quinton Quayle, Quayle Industries

Inspecting The Lloyds Building In London

Digital services company, The Virtulab, completed a drone inspection of London’s iconic Lloyd’s building, using a DJI M210 RTK and X7 camera.

The team obtained an Operating Safety Case to fly close to the building within the City of London - the capital's main financial district.

The brief was to capture the detail of the Lloyd’s façade, as part of a five-year project to assess and monitor the external fabric of the building.

Using the drone had numerous advantages:

  • Increased Safety And Efficiency: The drone replaced the need for rope access, which saved time and improved safety.
  • Non-invasive Inspection: The Lloyds building is Grade-I listed. The drone was able to keep away from the structure, preventing any knocks, scrapes, or damage which could be caused through alternative methods. 
  • Repeatable Data: Using the drone was ideal for capturing consistent data, removing the need to abseil down the outside of the building and stopping at regular intervals to manually take pictures. Accurate drone data is a more reliable process for cross-referencing and validating during the lifecycle of the project. 
“It is much easier with a drone to achieve the right workflow; not only is it quicker and safer, but it is also a more methodical and consistent way of capturing the data you need, which in turn is better for cross-referencing and validating.”

Mike Hibberd, The Virtulab

best drone for inspections

Harness the power of the DJI eco-system.

Diverse Drones For Diverse Data Collection 

DJI offers a vast ecosystem for drone inspections, enabling operators to capture quick and reliable data. 

The versatility of the aircraft available ensures there is something for every mission - from the powerful and larger M300 RTK to the small, foldable and portable Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced. 

Some of the stand-out solutions include: 

M300 RTK

DJI's most powerful commercial drone platform.

    • Up to 55 minutes of flight time;
    • Carry up to three payloads at once;
    • IP45 rating;
    • Wide payload compatibility for inspections, such as H20T (including thermal, zoom, wide angle), L1 LiDAR sensor, P1 photogrammetry camera, and third-party payloads;
    • Attach CSM Module to help detect small obstacles.

Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced

Compact drone for thermal, visual and zoom data.

    • 640 x 512 px radiometric thermal sensor;
    • 48MP visual camera;
    • 32x digital zoom, and 16x thermal zoom;
    • RTK Module available for CM-level positioning and greater flight stability, especially close to powerlines;
    • Create up to 240 waypoints for automated inspection;
    • Integrate with extra accessories, such as a bright spotlight.

Mini 2

Tiny drone for visual inspections.

    • Sub 250g take-off weight for an ultra-light visual inspection tool;
    • 12MP visual camera, and 4K 30fps video @ 100mbps;
    • 4x Zoom, 2x lossless;
    • 31 minutes of flight time;
    • The drone's light weight means that a UK drone training course isn't necessarily necessary. Read UK drone laws.  

Matrice 210 V2

A versatile inspection solution.

    • Rugged and robust with an IP43 weather-resistance rating;
    • Carry dual payloads to increase mission efficiency;
    • Compatible with a range of cameras, including third-party options;
    • Up to 34 minute maximum flight time;
    • The M210 Series also has an RTK version available.

Phantom 4 RTK

Low-altitude mapping tool.

    • 1”CMOS sensor; 20MP; mechanical shutter to avoid rolling shutter blur;
    • Achieve 1cm+1ppm RTK Horizontal Positioning Accuracy, and 1.5cm+1ppm RTK Vertical Positioning Accuracy;
    • RTK module for real-time, CM-level positioning data for absolute accuracy on image metadata. Also utilise RTK for greater flight stability.

Phantom 4 Multispectral

Dedicated drone for agricultural inspections.

  • One RGB camera and a multispectral camera array with five cameras covering Blue, Green, Red, Red Edge, and Near Infrared bands;
  • All sensors are 2MP;
  • Live RGB and NDVI feed available from the drone;
  • Integrated RTK for 1-cm accuracy.

BEST CAMERAS FOR DRONE INSPECTION

Variety of payloads for different missions.

Pick The Payload For Your Inspection Needs

The type of data you want to collect during your drone inspection will dictate which camera you use.

Some drones, such as the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced and Phantom 4 RTK, have fixed cameras. But larger drones, such as the DJI M300 RTK and DJI M200 Series, can be integrated with a range of different cameras, enabling ultimate flexibility for drone inspection missions.          

Available payloads have a wealth of capabilities, enabling operators to collect varied data, such as thermal, zoom, and LiDAR. Meanwhile, the Z15 bright spotlight, is ideal for illuminating inspection areas, especially during lowlight missions.           

 

DJI Zenmuse H20/H20T

Multi-sensor solution for a range of inspection missions.

  • 20 MP Zoom Camera, 23x hybrid optical zoom; 200x max zoom;
  • 12 MP Wide Camera;
  • 1200 m Laser Rangefinder;
  • H20T also has 640 x 512 px Radiometric Thermal Camera;
  • Smart and automated inspection features, such as AI SpotCheck;
  • IP44 Rating;
  • Compatible with DJI M300 RTK.

DJI Zenmuse P1

High-resolution photogrammetry camera.

    • 45MP full-frame CMOS, and 1/2000s shutter speed;
    • Achieve 3cm horizontal accuracy and 5cm vertical accuracy with no ground control points;
    • Highly efficient: 3km² area coverage during a single flight;
    • Smart Oblique Capture;
    • Use DJI Terra for post-processing the data;
    • Compatible with DJI M300 RTK. 

DJI Zenmuse L1

Cost-effective IP44-rated plug-and-play LiDAR sensor.

  • Lidar module, 20MP RGB camera, and high-accuracy IMU;
  • High-accuracy: Vertical, 5cm; Horizontal, 10cm at 50m;
  • High Density Point Cloud: 240,000 effective points/s, or increase further with up to three returns;
  • Display and measure point clouds in real time;
  • Use DJI Terra for post-processing data;
  • Compatible with DJI M300 RTK. 

FLIR Vue TZ20

Dual thermal payload.

    • Two 640 × 512 non-radiometric Boson cameras;
    • Wide 95° field of view and narrow 18° FOV;
    • 20x thermal zoom;
    • IP44 Rating;
    • Compatible with DJI M300 RTK and M200 Series V2.

Wingsland Z15 Spotlight

Highlight the details that matter.

    • Illuminate large areas from up to150m away;
    • Multiple lighting modes: Switch between always on, flashing and SOS lighting modes
    • Compatible with DJI M300 RTK and M200 Series V2;
    • Use with other payloads, such as H20T, XT2 thermal, or Z30 zoom

GL60 Zoom Spotlight

Powerful and bright zoom spotlight.

    • Effective irradiation up to 200 metres;
    • Features strong flash-light mode;
    • Follows the camera zoom and rotation;
    • Lockable to capture moving objects;
    • Compatible with DJI M300 RTK and M200 Series V2.

U10 Methane Detector

Detect methane and obtain real-time readings.

  • Up to 100m Detection Distance;
  • 25ms Response Time;
  • 5ppm.m Stationary Detection Limit;
  • 720p visual camera;
  • Compatible with DJI M300 RTK and M200 Series V2.

Other Drone Cameras For Inspection

There are a number of other drone cameras for inspection, which are slightly older than the ones mentioned above.

The DJI Zenmuse Z30 and XT2 can be used with the M300 RTK and Matrice 200 Series V2, while the X7 can be used with the Matrice 200 Series V2 (and the Inspire 2).

  • Z30: Zoom camera with 30x optical and up to 6x digital zoom. Buy now.
  • XT2: The XT2 features a dual 4K, 12MP, 1/1.7″ CMOS visual sensor and a FLIR Tau 2 thermal sensor. Buy now.
  • X7: Ideal for visual inspections, the X7 can capture 24MP stills. It has multiple lens options. Buy now.

HOW HELIGUY™ CAN HELP YOU

Comprehensive end-to-end support to grow your drone inspection enterprise.

Your Drone Partner

A successful commercial drone programme is based on a multi-faceted approach. It isn't just hardware; it's developing a comprehensive end-to-end workflow, with all components running effectively, together.

For this, you need a pillar of support to help you build solid foundations, cover all bases and connect the dots.  

This is where heliguy™ can help. At the forefront of the industry since 2008, we have more than 20 members of staff who can help each aspect of your enterprise - from start-up to scale.

Our one-stop-shop structure spans consultancy; hardware supply and support; global logistics; pilot and industry-specific training; and in-house repairs, crash resolution and R&D to provide an integrated and comprehensive support network.

This approach has enabled us to empower the drone programmes of Network Rail, Balfour Beatty, Costain, Atkins, National Grid, the Ministry of Defence, AB Ports, Phillips 66, and more than 30 UK emergency services.

Drone Supply

  • Free consultancy;
  • Vast inventory of stock for instant supply, scaling and immediate swap outs;
  • Drone rental;
  •  Global network of industry partners;
  • Service level agreements;
  • Next-day delivery;
  • Finance options available;
  • IATA Certified to globally ship high-power batteries by air to help with transborder operations.

Drone Training

  • 3,000+ candidates taught;
  • CAA-approved courses;
  • Online training and remote theory examinations;
  • Closed courses and industry-specific training - we've delivered to the likes of Network Rail and UK blue light;
  • CPD courses and industry application courses, like GIS and industrial inspection;
  •  Streamlined Operations Manual creation and renewal;
  • OSC consultancy;
  • Handover days;
  • Lifetime support.

Repairs & Crash Management

  • In-house DJI-approved repair centre, offering crash support and repairs management;
  • Instant replacement of dead on arrival products, including over-the-phone fault diagnosis with one of four technicians, and free returns/replacements of faulty items;
  • Warranty repairs/replacements at no extra cost, including access to repairs infrastructure in the UK from our Repair Centre;
  • Firmware upgrade and set-up support;
  • Data analysis, premium customer support, and resolution with the manufacturer;
  • R&D lab for custom builds and sensor integration.

heliguy™ Testimonials

Equipment Shipped Straight To Site

"Heliguy has industry-recognised expertise and offers a fantastic range of products. Heliguy offers a good range of support, from the initial query, through the transaction and then advice and technical support after the purchase. Communication is easy and they will ship any rental equipment you require straight to site so you can be running without delay."

Wayne Hughes - Balfour Beatty

 

Professional Training Course

"The course was very professional, very well structured and very well delivered. I know the instructors are great at what they do. For me, the most important part is the flying aspect, so I know the candidates are in safe hands.”

Paul Lindup - Network Rail

Pulling Out The Stops

"I couldn't think of a better team to work with because Heliguy pulls out all of the stops to make sure you have what you need and that every problem has been covered."

Lee Newman - London Fire Brigade

 

 

Heliguy Integrated Our Chosen Sensor

 

"Heliguy was able to integrate our chosen sensor which, when combined with our high-precision GNSS, enables us to capture and generate accurate, repeatable data. Heliguy’s design and development focus was a big part of why we chose them to assemble our chosen drone. The build and handover process of our M600 went very smoothly and the team has been very quick to respond to any queries we’ve had since purchasing the kit.”

 

James Fleming - Atkins

Expanded Pilot Team

"The Heliguy-delivered training was fantastic. I can't recommend them enough. Two of our officers deployed with the drone less than 48 hours after training, filling a gap in operational capability. That they had the confidence and ability to deploy so quickly after passing was due to Heliguy."

PC Tom Gee - Derbyshire Constabulary

 

 

The Team Understands Our Needs

"Heliguy provides the equipment we need with rapid turn around time. The team understands our needs and are ready to support us."

Patrick Rickerby - Terra Drone Europe

what training is needed for drone inspections? 

Obtain the qualifications you need.

Fly Legally And Safely

If you are planning on using a drone for inspection, it is important that you understand the rules and regulations and have the necessary training in place.

heliguy™'s expert training team can help drone pilots obtain the necessary permissions and meet the correct training criteria to empower them to deploy unmanned aircraft for inspection jobs. 

The type of training needed depends on the country you are operating in.

Drone Training: UK

If you want to operate drones for inspection in the UK, then, in the majority of cases, you will need to sit either an A2 CofC or GVC course. 

Candidates can sit either of these courses now, online through our dedicated Learning Management System. 

Drone Training: USA

In the U.S., commercial operators need to obtain a Part 107 drone license.

This involves passing the FAA Part 107 Test and obtaining a Remote Pilot Certificate.

Operating Safety Case

Unlock Special Permissions For Complex Drone Inspections

In some cases, an Operating Safety Case (OSC) will be required for UK drone inspections, such as if the mission is taking place in a congested area. 

heliguy™ runs an OSC consultancy, using former UK CAA OSC expert, Josh Williams, as consultant. 

His experience will help commercial operators build a compliant application for submission to the CAA, to help unlock special permissions for more complex or bespoke drone-inspection missions.. 

Click to learn how our OSC consultancy can help you