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Drone Programs: Key Considerations for Drone Building Inspections


It’s now common knowledge that drones make building inspections safer and faster and governments around the globe are creating new rules to allow for drone flights in major cities and towns to expedite structural surveys such as facade inspections. But there are a whole host of challenges to using drones in built-up areas and rules and regulations still exist. Here we look at the key considerations for using drones for building and facade inspections in urban areas, including a typical workflow.



drone flying over a city


Using Drones for Urban Building Inspections: 


The integration of drones into building inspection programs requires careful planning, training, and adherence to regulatory guidelines, especially in built-up areas.


Key considerations include:


  1. Regulatory Compliance ⚖️  Drone teams must ensure compliance with local aviation regulations and obtain any necessary permits or approvals for drone operations. Work closely with aviation authorities to understand airspace restrictions and safety protocols. For instance, in the UK these rules are maintained by the CAA and in the US, the FAA. If you are curious to learn more about the flying regulations in the US and the UK, take a look at this page.

  2. Training and Certification 🏆  Personnel responsible for operating drones should undergo comprehensive training and certification to ensure safe, compliant and proficient operation. Training programs should cover topics such as flight planning, emergency procedures, and data analysis.

  3. Data Security and Privacy🔒  You must implement robust protocols for data security and privacy to safeguard any sensitive information collected during drone inspections. Check local rules to ensure compliance with data protection regulations and establish procedures for data storage, transmission, and access control.

  4. Integration with Existing Workflows🔗 Consider how you will integrate drone-based inspections into existing workflows, leveraging software platforms for data management, analysis, and reporting. Maximise the ability to collaborate with stakeholders to streamline processes and maximize the efficiency of drone operations.




To read our full Scan-to-BIM guide, visit https://www.hammermissions.com/post/drone-scan-to-bim


1. Drone Building Inspection Workflow


drone flying outside building


Right, your team’s assembled, you’ve got your permits, it’s time to fly! Here’s a suggested workflow to help you iron out the details:


Scenario:


You’re a survey and inspection company based in New York City, where the use of drones has been approved as part of the Facade Inspection Safety Program (FISP). You’ve been asked by a client to carry out an inspection of their building to help them file their FISP report.


Location: Downtown Metropolitan Area


Building Type: High-rise Commercial Office Building


Objective: Conduct a comprehensive facade inspection to identify potential hazards and ensure compliance with FISP regulations.


Equipment: DJI Mavic 3 Enterprise drone equipped with a high-resolution camera and thermal imaging sensor.


Team: Certified drone operator, licensed professional engineer, and safety observer.

Preparation:


For a comprehensive operations guide, please visit: https://www.hammermissions.com/post/how-to-use-drones-for-building-inspections



enterprise drone program

Site Survey: The inspection team conducts a site survey to assess environmental conditions, airspace restrictions, and potential safety hazards. They obtain necessary permits and permissions for drone operations from local aviation authorities.


Flight Planning: Using specialist software, the team plans the flight path for the drone, considering factors such as building height, proximity to other structures, and wind conditions. They identify key inspection areas, including facade surfaces, windows, joints, and structural components.


Flight Automation: Once the correct flight plan has been crafted, the team proceeds towards automating the flight capturing data at the correct locations with the right overlap between images so that they can later be post-processed into many different formats.


Drone Flight: The certified drone operator launches the UAV from a designated launch site, ensuring that all safety protocols are followed. The drone ascends to the predetermined altitude and begins capturing aerial imagery of the building facade.


This video takes you through a Facade Inspection step-by-step:




2. Data Analysis Process


Data Upload: Once the data has been adequately captured by the drone, it is all saved on the drone's SD card. An operator can then upload the data to a secure cloud storage platform by inserting the SD card into their computer and uploading it to the software platform.


Data Processing & Inspection: At this point, the data is processed into a 3D output and the images are organised in the best formats possible for the inspection of the virtual facade from various angles with the camera picking up areas of specific areas of interest, such as cracks, spalling, or signs of water infiltration.



thermal building inspection


Thermal Imaging: In addition to visual inspections, the drone is equipped with a thermal imaging sensor to detect anomalies not visible to the naked eye. The thermal camera detects temperature differentials that may indicate moisture intrusion, insulation deficiencies, or structural issues.


Wait! Is your data complete? To complete a thorough inspection, 2 types of datasets are needed. The first dataset is needed to create a 3D model of the site or asset. The second dataset contains detailed inspection images. This video explains more about capturing and combining these two datasets for a complete building inspection.




Data Reporting & Delivery


Data Analysis: The licensed professional engineer analyzes the collected data, comparing visual and thermal imagery to identify potential facade defects or anomalies. They prioritize findings based on severity and develop recommendations for corrective action.


Report Generation: Using specialist software, the inspection team generates a comprehensive report detailing their findings, including visual evidence, thermal imaging results, and recommendations for repairs or maintenance. The report is submitted to the building owner or manager for review and action.


Data Sharing: What good is that data if it can't be changed into meaningful insights by getting into the hands of the right stakeholders? Once a report has been generated, the analyzed data can be shared with multiple stakeholders by simply creating a secure link and sending to the appropriate stakeholders together with the PDF report.


building inspection report


Conclusion


In this showcased scenario, drones play a crucial role in conducting a facade inspection, offering a safe, efficient, and cost-effective solution for assessing building conditions. By leveraging advanced aerial imaging technology, inspection teams can easily identify potential hazards and ensure regulatory compliance while minimizing risks to personnel.


By implementing a simple yet efficient workflow, regular building inspections can be carried out to mitigate risks, preserve architectural heritage, and uphold public safety standards in our urban environments. Through regular inspections, proactive maintenance, and timely repairs, we can ensure that our buildings remain safe, functional, and aesthetically pleasing for years to come.


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About Hammer Missions


Hammer Missions provides survey-grade drone software solutions to help streamline drone inspections, site surveys, 3D mapping and asset monitoring projects.

 

Sign up for our free trial or arrange a demo with one of our drone inspection specialists.







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