HomeNewsWhat Our Customers Should Know – Are You Considering Inspection Via Drones?
What Our Customers Should Know – Are You Considering Inspection Via Drones?
March 1, 2019
It’s not just about having a fancy drone.
Industrial inspection using drones, or remotely piloted
aircraft systems (RPAS), is becoming more common. While this method of access
can deliver tremendous cost savings, there are some stipulations that are often
overlooked, but should be understood, prior to allowing a service provider to
carry out drone services at your site. With new providers entering the market
all the time, Acuren wants to ensure that access to critical information about
industrial drone inspection programs is available to everyone, regardless of
which service provider you choose.
All drone operators
require regulatory, but also importantly require experience.
Drone pilots are required to operate within federally
regulated standards, whether in Canada, or the United States. Your own staff,
or the recreational contact you have, cannot legally operate a drone for
commercial purposes without a federal license. An industrial drone service
provider should be able to provide you with the federal license or regulatory documentation
for all their pilots. A critical
consideration, is the drone crew’s experience in operating on an industrial
site. Do they know how to apply for permits,
avoid restricted areas, conduct check-ins, watch for up drafts, signal
interference, or the “wind effect” from surface structures? If they aren’t
familiar with drone inspection on industrial sites, these capabilities may have
to be provided by your staff. Do you have to dedicate someone to escort them
and ensure these considerations are taken into account so that risk is
mitigated? Would you rather have the complete confidence to tell a crew to
inspect “Boiler H101 located here on a map” and send them on their way?
There are many drone service providers without industrial
inspection experience and worse, some without actual flight experience since
the FAA does not require the demonstration
of “flying capability or proficiency” when rating an individual as a remote
pilot for sUAS ie “drone pilot.
One size doesn’t fit
There are two components to evaluate when choosing equipment:
the drone itself and the sensor it uses to capture the data. These are not all
created equally and are not all suitable for every situation, climate, level of
detail required, etc. A provider might
have a variety of sensors and equipment that CAN do the job, but do they have
the expertise and experience to know which combination is the RIGHT combination
for the job? Choosing the right sensor for the application has a huge impact on
the accuracy of the data, captured image quality, level of detail required, and
the subsequent report. An experienced provider will be able to make the right
recommendation for YOUR particular job. The
level of precision varies drastically and a successful industrial drone
inspection provider will have a variety of options to consider when evaluating
your project. They should discuss the suitable options based on your
circumstances and expected outcomes. Being
able to offer a variety of options to properly address your specific need is
critical, however, it is expensive for drone providers to buy, or reliably
access a wide variety of sensors and drones. It requires an investment and commitment.
Be wary of providers who pitch a one size fits all approach.
To complete successful
drone inspection tasks, you need inspection experience.
There are many drone service providers without industrial
inspection experience and worse, some without actual flight experience. (*Note:
The FAA does not require the demonstration of “flying capability or proficiency”
when rating an individual as a remote pilot for sUAS ie “drone pilot.”
Additionally, they need to be trained and experienced (rated) on that
particular aircraft and type of inspection.) Should you choose to go this
route, and hire a firm or individual without the appropriate rating or
industrial flying experience, there are risks you need to understand and be
willing to accept. In contrast when choosing an inspection service provider it enables
the provider to utilize their inspection knowledge to plan and execute the
service in accordance with the appropriate safety protocols, with the
understanding of the correct level of sensor measurement or temperature
consideration, and the awareness of common obstacles or challenges with your
circumstance, location or type of inspection. This expert inspection knowledge
also impacts the level of detail in your resulting report, interpretation of
findings, and proposed recommendations. It is even better if you can choose a provider
with in-house engineers, inspectors and experienced drone pilots with
industrial inspection flying experience.
A Special Flight
Operations Certificate (SFOC) IS a big deal.
Having FAA licensed trained pilots (US), or being granted a blanket
SFOC (Special Flight Operations Certificate, Canada) is a testimonial to an
organization’s expertise. Traditionally, these certificates are only granted to
individuals and organizations on a case-by-case, at the time of flight, basis.
Without an SFOC, you cannot fly for commercial purposes in Canada. Any incidents that may occur, might not be
covered by your insurance without an SFOC in place. One perspective is that the
SFOC is more thorough than a FAA license. In order to be awarded a SFOC, Transport
Canada reviews your safety protocols, risk mitigation, operational procedures, and
ground school. Ensure you are choosing a provider that understands, and meets,
the national and local regulatory requirements in all the countries within
which you operate.
should be a part of the whole package.
A drone service provider should have
software components that allow for translation of the data captured, into
meaningful and usable information about your asset. You should be able to see
3D point cloud models, context and location references. Additionally, you
should be able to zoom into areas of concern easily. When considering a service
provider, ask if they have the capability to provide detailed condition
reports, inspector comments, annotations and recommendations. Inquire about
their inspector’s experience with this technology and what the relationship is
between the pilot who captures the images and the inspector and/or engineer
that writes the reports. They should operate as a team. You should receive more
than merely a “photo” in your report. Request copies of reports they have
provided to other clients. Excellent software with knowledgeable interpretation
will allow for excellent reporting.
Data security considerations shouldn’t be overlooked.
Consider the data security
protocols of the organization you’re choosing. A professional firm will have
procedures and policies that have been proven, and maintain the security and
reliability of customer’s data. Considerations should include chain of custody,
privacy, archival, and access control.
This technology has such tremendous capability and we want to ensure customers are educated and understand the basic questions to ask when doing their due diligence in selecting a provider. The information presented here was written in conjunction with Mike Stump, Director UAV Inspection Services for Acuren. You can reach him at 1-800-218-7450 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Acuren provides integrated services including inspection, repair and maintenance via rope acess using composite crews with multi-disciplined trades, experienced personnel, IRATA certified technicians, and customized access optimization programs.
Acuren has a specialized team with aerospace industry experience that use both traditional and advanced nondestructive testing methods to identify defects in critical structural, airframe, and engine and accessory components.
Acuren’s engineering, inspection and industrial services teams consist of engineers, technologists and tradespeople with a diverse educational background, working in the mining industry for over 40 years.
We are familiar with the unique codes and regulations of the rail industry, including DOT in the US and Transport Canada, and we're constantly innovating to create enhanced testing procedures that ensure optimum quality and safety.