Technical Drones: Harder Than it Looks

While drones are an attractive solution to many problems, commercial UAV applications are often technically complex. Facade inspection is one of those use cases.

Drone technology has achieved incredible advances in the past few years. Onboard AI navigation, location awareness, proximity detection, obstacle avoidance, real-time point cloud generation, new payloads, stabilization technology and more are revolutionizing what can be done from these remarkable pieces of hardware. 

With the proliferation of CFR Part 107, the FAA has spurred a boom in drone pilots and businesses (small and large) providing various types of commercial drone services from real estate marketing to film & entertainment and technical inspection. Within the technical inspection industry drones have provided value for power lines, pipelines, confined spaces (tanks, ships, chimneys, etc.), wind turbines and building facades. 

While the drone technology advancements are most certainly welcome, they sometimes lure pilots into a false sense of security. Especially with the more technically challenging tasks, pilots must remember that autopilot is not always an option. Magnetic interference from large metal objects, small undetectable obstacles such as wires as well as unreliable GPS signal (especially in dense urban areas) all present challenges to even the most capable pilot. 

Facade inspection is particularly difficult considering the close proximity of the drone to the inspection target. For mapping, surveying or other long-distance activities, even large deviations from flightpaths may not represent a catastrophic risk. 

Finding the right talent for your project is key. The best method would be example previous projects and direct customer referrals. There are also other certifications that you can look for such as AUVSI TOP or T2D2 DSP certification. Membership in organizations such as AUVSI or DSA also speak to the professionalism of a service provider. 

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