Structural inspection reaches new heights while inspector stays grounded
Mark Atwater posted on September 06, 2013 |
Aerial robotics can change the way structural inspection is done

As wind power becomes more economical, more turbines are being installed. As the technology advances, the towers are getting larger. The same situation exists for cell phone towers. If you don’t like dropped calls, more towers must be installed. So they are. All of this large-scale infrastructure must be maintained. That takes time. Time is money. You pay more. What’s an engineer to do?

That’s where SkySpecs comes in. SkySpecs specializes in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Currently they are targeting structural inspection where access is difficult, time-consuming and often dangerous. Some examples of where this technology can be applied include wind turbines, antennae and sky scrapers. These structures are often hundreds of feet tall. That makes it difficult to get an inspector up and down these structures while conducting an inspection. 

Structurally unsound towers, buildings or bridges can be extremely hazardous. These large structures also present a significant challenge. With so much structure to inspect, the process is extremely labor-intensive. The use of small, aerial vehicles provides a tailor-made means to address this inefficiency. The SkySpecs UAVs can be customized with varied sensor equipment to meet a customer-specific demand.

The technology works by using autonomous flight. This takes the skill out of flying the vehicle and allows the inspector to focus on interpreting the data. The UAV senses its environment and maneuvers around the structure. The operator determines what to inspect and uses his or her knowledge to determine the results of the inspection.

The UAV can gather data objectively from the same locations and precisely quantify it. This means repeatable, reliable information. The inspection results are still interpreted by a qualified technician, but the time invested in rigging and climbing the structure is eliminated from routine inspection. The inspection can be done faster. This means more structures can be inspected, and overall safety and reliability can be increased.

As critical structures increase in number and size, there must be a corresponding increase in structural assessment. Timely, accurate information can be costly - and at times dangerous - due to the complexity of accessing large structures. To increase safety and efficiency is a win-win. Thanks to some innovative engineers, it’s also possible.

 

To learn more about the company’s founder, and the development of the technology, click here.

 

Images courtesy of :  SkySpecs, LLC, http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2010/01/09/winona-turbines, and http://isaacbrana.wordpress.com/2010/07/13/adopt-a-wind-turbine/

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