Why Drones Are a Game Changer for Façade Inspections
Updated: Mar 3
Drone inspections have become commonplace for hard-to-reach areas. Drones make surveys safer, faster and provide better data than any other method. In this article, we’ll look at how drones are revolutionizing facade inspections in architecture, engineering and construction.
It’s About More Than Monitoring
Monitoring the condition of your assets is key to being able to catch problems early before they become something more serious. Facade inspections are crucial for stakeholders to be able to understand the changing condition of a structure through its lifecycle especially when it’s undergoing work. Manual inspections make it difficult and often uneconomical to carry out facade inspections on a regular basis and this can lead to structural and safety issues going unnoticed.
But there are other benefits of carrying out facade inspections using a drone. The extra intelligence that can be gathered can feed into many different areas of a business and help to inform and shape a business strategy outside of just asset management.
The Benefits of Using Drones for Facade Inspections
Facade inspections would usually only be carried out every few months, sometimes every few years, and often only when an issue has already been detected. Having to close a site, erect scaffolding or outsource specialist equipment and personnel all cost time and money. Drone inspections mean that surveys can be carried out with minimal business disruption at repeatable intervals before issues arise. Whether equipped with something as complex as a LiDAR scanner or a simple camera, being able to gather data at height and on-demand means more detailed data on a more regular basis.
Outside of just condition monitoring drone data can be used for:
· Building Information Modelling (BIM)
· 3D Models & Digital Twins
· Site planning
· Tracking construction progress
· Simulation modelling
Digital Twins are of particular interest in AEC. Being able to create an accurate and active 3D model of a structure not only helps with condition monitoring but also when planning construction works. Digital Twins can also be used to simulate the impacts of change on a building and help to inform long-term preventative planning.
The Collaborative Data Strategy
Collaboration is essential in AEC and each year, thousands of working hours are lost waiting for information to be passed along. When you invest in a drone strategy any data you collect becomes instantly shareable. You also all know that you’re working with the same up-to-date imagery so less can be lost in translation.
Drone data doesn’t have to be complex either. Photogrammetry allows you to collect hundreds of photos during your drone inspection which are then automatically stitched together to form a visual representation of your structure or facade. Unlike LiDAR data, photogrammetry drone data doesn’t take days to process. Depending on which software you use, you can upload your project and see all of your images within minutes. You can then pan and zoom on the images to inspect and annotate each area of interest. This quick guide shows how easy it can be to analyze drone data.
Once you’ve captured and analyzed your data sharing it is simple. With just one drone survey, multiple stakeholders on the same project can view specific areas of interest online or in a downloadable pdf.
Making a Business Case for Drone Facade Inspections
The benefits of drone inspections are numerous but proving a business case for introducing a drone program will always come down to one thing – return on investment (ROI). Thankfully, the financial benefits of a drone program are easy to prove and evidence.
Carrying out a facade inspection remotely means no risk to personnel. Your drone operator can remain at a safe distance while the survey is carried out. If an issue is detected action can be taken swiftly.
Time is Money
Drone surveys are faster than traditional surveys by a long way, but they are also more accurate. When pitching to work on a construction project for the 2022 World Cup, engineering consultancy Arcadis had to prove that drones could carry out a survey as accurately as traditional methods. The traditional survey took three hours, the drone survey took only 20 minutes. The traditional topographic survey also only collected 197 data points compared to over 1,500,000 from the drone survey.
Business as Usual
Site closures cost AEC millions each year. When an incident happens, it can be hours or even days before sites can safely open again. Drones can help with this in a few ways. Because drone inspections are so quick to carry out, they can be performed more regularly. Regular facade inspections can warn of impending issues before they become a safety or productivity concern.
It’s also safer to send in a drone if an issue does arise. Imagery can be captured and viewed in real time to allow decision makers to take the best course of action quickly and with minimal disruption. Drones can also go where people can’t, so they are ideal for sites where accessibility is an issue.
Many businesses employ the services of specialists to carry out facade inspections and it’s easy to see why. Working at height is a dangerous job. And depending on the size of your project you may also need to provide specialist equipment. You may need a cherry picker, scaffolding or even require rope access to adequately survey your site or asset. More money being invested in equipment or services which could be replaced by one small thing – a drone.
Getting Started with Drone Facade Inspections
Incorporating drones into your business doesn’t have to be disruptive. Creating a drone strategy is all about making it scalable and meaningful. But where do you start? The best starting point is to involve all key stakeholders in the planning process early on. This will help you to make sure that your drone program is fit for purpose for everyone who will use the resulting data. Ask clients what they would like to see or speak to contractors to find out what would be beneficial to them.
The scale of your drone program will depend on the size of your business, and budget. Some enterprise customers have dozens of drones, some only have one drone and one operator. Wherever you start make sure you do your research and get the best advice. Speak to other businesses who already conduct their facade inspections using drones. Look up case industry case studies. Drone equipment providers are another good source of information. DJI are the market leader for AEC drones and they have a wealth of resources and case studies to help you incorporate drone inspections into your business.
Drone surveys are faster, cheaper and more accurate than traditional facade inspections. The scope for drone data also allows a business to plan and prevent future issues, rather than just monitor current conditions. Collaborative industries like AEC can only benefit from utilizing drone technology to make their businesses more streamlined and data driven, and it doesn’t have to be difficult to get started. Read our Top 5 Considerations for starting a drone program.
Hammer Missions is a software platform that helps drone (UAV) teams work with versatile & high-quality drone data for site surveys and asset inspections. Our goal is to help UAV teams cut costs and increase ROI by building operational efficiency in their drone programs.
Our Hammer App, which integrates with commercial drones, allows the drone pilot to create and fly 15+ types of drone missions, by creating automated flight plans based on pilot input.
Our Hammer Hub is a cloud-based platform where drone data can be processed and visualized in a full 3D environment, and annotated to mark defects or severe issues. This data can also be annotated using AI to accelerate the annotation process, and it can then be shared with other team members or stakeholders within the organization for further review.
If you haven't got a Hammer account as yet and would like to try Hammer Missions you can get started on our free trial.
To learn more about our enterprise solutions, including mission collaboration, data processing, and AI solutions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org