The Role of Drones in Industrial Vision Inspection
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Drones with embedded vision capabilities are able to perform industrial vision inspection quickly and efficiently. To manually inspect industrial infrastructures, such as pipelines, roads, and water systems, workers must drive remote roads, trim trees, and climb towers. These workers also are often on the front lines after natural disasters.
Drones are now being used in these roles to reduce cost, help catch up on inspection backlogs, and to keep workers safer. It’s also easier for drones to complete inspections. Here are just some of the industrial vision inspection tasks being completed by drones with embedded vision.
Oil and Gas Pipelines
Drones can dramatically reduce traditional inspection costs for oil and gas pipelines. Contamination from produced water leaks (a byproduct of oil refining) kills vegetation and can ruin a crop of farmland. Costs to recover are often hundreds of thousands of dollars. Drones with embedded vision can quickly survey hundreds of miles of pipeline and quickly provide aerial imagery of landscape changes that indicate leaks
Millions of miles of electric lines crisscross the United States. Workers must drive many miles of remote-access roads to perform inspections of existing power lines. Drones are able to perform these inspections faster and get a closer view of issues with the infrastructure.
Drones with embedded vision and infrared thermography are able to examine wind turbine blades more accurately than ground-based camera vision systems. Drones can detect cracks and other issues beneath the surface of the turbine blade. The wind farm is often able to remain functional during inspections, further reducing cost, and workers don’t have to climb towers to get a closer look at imperfections.
Bridges, Highways, and Overpasses
Bridge inspections are steep undertakings. Under bridge inspection vehicles (UBIVs) cost up to $1 million, and then operating the vehicle can run thousands of dollars per day. Drone-assisted inspections can save a considerable amount of money, and even provide superior data and reporting thanks to embedded vision technologies that provide 3D modeling.
Dams and Water Systems
Workers are constantly inspecting aqueducts, hydroelectric equipment, reservoirs, fish ladders, and treatment plants. Drones with embedded vision are able to inspect these systems and provide highly-accurate 3D and photographic models that let managers stay focused on the hardest-to-access places and develop a proactive, predictive maintenance schedule.
In the near future, connected drones using 5G technology will be more capable of performing inspections by working together. Embedded vision, artificial intelligence, and deep learning will allow for more autonomous flights and remote deployments. This upgrade proves timely, as climate change is projected to cause more weather-related problems for industrial infrastructure.
With the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) market set for rapid growth, the possibilities for industrial vision inspection are endless.
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