Unmanned Aerial Vehicles – Is Industry Taking Notice?

LinkedIn Article | December 12th, 2016

Granted, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) produce jaw dropping aerial shots of natural wonders, real estate and major sporting events. But you might be asking yourself: what else can they do? Fact is, the development of UAV technology has been so quick that the answer may be a pleasant surprise. If you want to find out how UAV technology can add value for you, continue reading below.

Did you know, modern UAVs use multiple satellites combined with other sensors to hold their position within 0.5 metre horizontally and vertically, in up to 30 knot winds? And their flight mission can be pre-programmed and completed with no manual intervention whatsoever? And did you know that redundancies were built in for added reliability and safety, just like in manned aircraft?

High-end cameras with 30+ megapixel sensors produce images with a resolution of 1 cm/pixel when flying at 100 metre, and even 0.1 mm/pixel when held in place just 1 metre away from a structure. Using a video link with the aircraft, you can see through the camera’s eye to make sure you get the footage that matters. Surveying, mapping, 3D modelling, detailed and even confined space asset inspection, it is all possible.

UAVs can also see beyond what’s visible. Firstly, when equipped with infrared sensors they can map temperatures, find heat leaks or cold spots, and even faulty electrical connections. What’s more, with multi or hyper spectral sensors, UAVs can see particular materials based on their chemical fingerprint. Just like satellites have scanned the earth’s surface for valuable mineral deposits, UAVs can do the same at a fraction of the cost. Doing so, they have also been able to detect explosives, investigate oil spills, map moisture levels and differentiate types of vegetation.

It doesn’t end with optical sensing though. UAVs are also carrying LiDAR systems (Light Detection and Ranging) to measure distances using laser light. Combined with the aircraft’s coordinates this is used to create detailed models of ground contours, stock piles and built structures. Taking measurements from a higher elevation definitely gives new meaning to “3D” laser scanning.

There are even UAVs that can sense a range of gases, for example to find an ammonia gas leak, to assess methane emissions, or to act as the proverbial canary in the mine while checking the hazard level of an unknown atmosphere.

While you could simply read this post as a listing of capabilities, in stead consider the possibilities. Increased safety, inspection of live plant, reduced down time, reduced cost, access to difficult locations, quick results, and what else?

If all this has come about in the last five years or so, imagine what you may be doing tomorrow …