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Feature


Sky’s The Limit as Drones take Inspection to New Heights


The evolution of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology has continued at a rapid pace in recent years, leading to the increased accessibility and adoption of drones across a wide ranges of industries and applications. Drones are particularly starting to play a revolutionary role within the inspection industry, as part of a new blended approach where advanced UAV technology is utilised alongside traditional on-site inspection practices. There is still some scepticism and


misunderstanding however around drone capabilities and deployment, with concern that in some instances they are being introduced too quickly or used as a substitute for experienced inspectors on the ground. It is therefore crucial that these myths are dispelled and the specific applications and benefits of drones – when used appropriately – are understood. Here, Kyle Veitch, Technical, Quality & Risk


Director for North West Europe at Bureau Veritas, explains how the strategic adoption and correct utilisation of drones can elevate the inspections process and lead to a safer, faster and better blended approach. Ten years ago, the use of UAV technology


– drones – was limited to the military arena and wasn’t something that was readily available from a commercial or industrial perspective. Fast forward to 2018 and whilst it is certainly not commonplace, the strategic deployment of drones as part of blended approach to inspection is now being hailed as


28 fmuk


a best practice approach, with many distinct advantages. It’s also something that is here to stay.


Reports estimate that the impact of drones on the UK economy will be £16bn in net cost savings by 2030 and the use of drones will boost ‘multi-factor’ productivity* during the same period1


by 3.2% . This prediction


comes alongside the more prolific use of drones across UK industries including: health and safety; construction and manufacturing; the public sector; utilities; technology, media and communications, plus many more. It’s therefore not a surprise that it is also predicted there will be more than 76,000 drones in UK skies by 20302


The advantages of drones


In terms of inspection, drones offer a number of invaluable capabilities and benefits when used in partnership with traditional methods of assessment and supervision. There are two distinct advantages of using drones in inspection; as an access solution and for building condition assessment. As an access solution, using drones can


be an efficient and effective method of conducting an initial visual assessment of large or difficult to access equipment or locations, at minimal risk and without disrupting production on-site. Deployed as an extension of the engineering inspector’s eyes and using a technically competent operator on the ground, drones can add value by efficiently identifying particular defects or areas of


concern that require further assessment by an inspector. It means that when it comes to carrying out any further inspection or remedial works, the exact location can be pinpointed – removing the guess work and allowing everyone involved to identify and respond often through planned preventative maintenance. Deploying this blended approach to


inspection is particularly valuable as a response to the increasingly crowded environments engineering inspectors are finding on-site. As new systems and equipment are regularly introduced, inspectors are having to navigate more complex spaces, which can prove challenging. Arranging access may require closing off a section of a facility or shutting down completely for a period of time, which can lead to costly downtime – as well as being inconvenient and taking longer. In this instance, using a drone for an initial assessment may reduce the need for equipment such as Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWPs) and scaffolding on-site and allow the engineering inspector visual access quickly and easily. Drones are also now capable of


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