Drones for Inspections & DJI Drone Inspection – heliguy™ – Heliguy Insider

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Explore Drone Inspection Guide
Cut costs. Increased Efficiency. Reduce Risk.
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.  
How drones improve your inspection missions.
Using a drone for inspections has multiple benefits. These include:
Collect a variety of data.
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:          
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
How drones are benefiting the world of work.
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.
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:
Drones can be utilised across the energy sector. Below, we focus on how drones are helping to inspect powerlines, wind turbines and solar panels.
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:          
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.”
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:
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:
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:
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:    
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:
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.
Access the inaccessible.
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:  
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:
How drones are being used in the real world for inspections.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
Harness the power of the DJI eco-system.
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: 
DJI’s most powerful commercial drone platform.
Compact drone for thermal, visual and zoom data.
Tiny drone for visual inspections.
A versatile inspection solution.
Low-altitude mapping tool.
Dedicated drone for agricultural inspections.
Variety of payloads for different missions.
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.           
 
Multi-sensor solution for a range of inspection missions.
High-resolution photogrammetry camera.
Cost-effective IP54-rated plug-and-play LiDAR sensor.
Dual thermal payload.
Highlight the details that matter.
Powerful and bright zoom spotlight.
Detect methane and obtain real-time readings.
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).
Comprehensive end-to-end support to grow your drone inspection enterprise.
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, Atkins, National Grid, the Ministry of Defence, AB Ports, Phillips 66, and more than 30 UK emergency services.
“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
 
“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
“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
 
 
 
 
James Fleming – Atkins
“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
 
 
“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
Obtain the qualifications you need.
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.
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. 
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.
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
 
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