Drone inspections are becoming the go-to method of surveying and inspecting buildings, land, assets and infrastructure and for good reason. Drone inspections are faster, safer, more efficient and cheaper than traditional survey methods but with all of those benefits comes a whole host of new challenges. Planning your mission and capturing your data is just a small part of the process! We’re going to break it all down for you in 5 simple steps.
Getting Started With Drone Inspections:
Despite their many benefits, drone inspections can still be challenging. Generally you’ll need to provide an overall understanding of the building, asset or area being surveyed as well as a more detailed view of progress made, potential issues or changes from previous surveys. So, where do you start? Follow our five simple steps for your first drone inspection and the rest will become easy.
Step 1. Identify the right drone camera
To identify the right drone for inspections you need to identify the right camera and work your way backwards. Ask yourself the following questions:
Do you need a visual camera or a thermal camera?
What resolution will you need?
Do you need zoom?
Once you have figured out the drone camera, you can then typically figure out the drone. You should only have to carry out this step once if you get it right. We’ve put together a handy guide to help you choose the right drone from the start: How to Buy the Right Drone
Step 2. Identify the right flight plan
Identifying the right flight plan is key to making sure that you capture the right data during your drone survey. Drone inspections are far faster but not if you have to do them twice! Consider these 5 questions:
What kind of building or asset are you capturing?
Is it tall or short?
Do you have access to the entire site?
Where are you taking off from?
Are there any obstructions such as trees in place?
The answers to these questions will help you to determine whether you need a roof flight plan, facade flight plan or maybe a tower flight plan. Each asset is unique and each will have different challenges so you will end up with multiple different flight plans unless you are inspecting the same asset or area each time.
One of the most common questions we are asked is “Do I need separate flight plans for mapping and inspection?” The answer is yes!
Take a look at our guide on Mapping vs Inspection - What’s the Difference?
Or watch our podcast:
Step 3: Capture the 3D Modelling images (Automated)
Once you’ve established the right flight plan for your drone inspection you’ll want to capture the asset using an automated flight. Automated flight capture provides the best data capture for creating 3D models of the site or asset
Even though this is an inspection, you’ll need a 3D model of the site or the asset to put the project into context. But don’t get hung up on the detail. A common mistake is to try and get as close up an image as possible. What you want at this stage is a good overview, otherwise you’ll be wrangling tons of data when 1cm/pixel is GSD is sufficient.
Step 4. Capture the Detailed Drone Inspection Images - (Manual / Automated)
Once you’ve captured your 3D modelling images, you can now capture the detailed inspection images. This can once again be automated or you can choose to capture these images manually for greater flexibility. This decision will depend on whether your site or asset already has known issues that you want to capture in more detail or whether you are tracking change in a specific area.
Another automated flight is the easiest option but capturing images manually allows you to get the best of both worlds - overview images for a 3D model and close-up images for detailed drone inspection reports.
Step 5. Putting Your Drone Inspection Together in One Unified Project
You’ve captured your data, you’re now back at the office and you can start putting everything together. Firstly, take your 3D mapping images and process them into a 3D model. Then upload your inspection images in the same project. Depending on whether your software platform supports this, you should now have the best of both worlds in one unified project. If it doesn’t, take a look at our drone software which will help you streamline your drone inspections.
Once the modelling is complete, you can click on any part of the model or the input images and bring up the corresponding images. This is where you can annotate, comment & markup those images to flag issues or features of interest. Nothing great is done alone, so this is a great time to bring in your clients, stakeholders and other collaborators to view the project as a whole.
If you’re using Hammer Missions you can now speed up the annotation process using Hamlet AI. Read more about using our latest bolt-on to boost your next drone inspection.
All done? You can now create PDF reports which can be kept on file serving as the digital record of the asset, building or site’s condition at that point in time.
See? Drone inspections aren’t that hard to master after all! All you need is:
The right kit
The correct flight plan
Overview shots of the full site
Close-up detailed images
The right drone software to bring the whole project together
About Hammer Missions
Hammer Missions provides survey-grade drone software solutions to help streamline drone inspections, site surveys, 3D mapping and asset monitoring projects.
Find out how Hammer Missions can simplify your drone missions.
Sign up for our free trial (no credit card required) or arrange a demo with one of our drone inspection specialists.