Utility Inspections: How UAS Can Improve Your Team’s Safety While Increasing Operation Efficiency
MissionGO – May 10, 2022
Preventative maintenance is one of the cornerstone tenants of all industrial operations. Utilities are no exception and are often considered the standard-bearer of extensive visual inspection. Whether wind power, solar farms, the electrical grid, or power stations, all utilities require high-resolution inspections for their continued safe operations. Unfortunately, all of these industries also share in common a high level of risk for manual inspections. This can be sharply reduced with the employment of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
Why Are UAS Perfect For Inspections?
Time is money, and UAS saves a great amount of time in the field. Small UAS – or drones – are often light enough to be packed in a backpack and can be quickly deployed for efficient operations. Proper training for the use of UAS and strict adherence to aerial safety are the best ways to proficiently conduct inspections above while keeping your crew on the ground.
Before employing small drones, wind farm maintainers had to walk out on each individual blade of every wind turbine on the farm. With three blades per turbine, you can imagine how long these manual operations would take. A good ballpark figure for each unit is around 3-4 hours and two units could be inspected in a workday. All of this, and more importantly, there is a considerable risk to life and limb in walking out on each blade for inspection.
A drone can visually inspect the entire wind turbine in about 15 minutes with its pilot safely on the ground.
Solar farms are not nearly as high-risk as the other inspection areas. Still, they are incredibly time-consuming to visually inspect. Solar farms are usually between ten and one hundred acres, which can take hours to cover. However, a drone can fly a pre-programmed grid, ensuring 100 percent area coverage in just a few minutes. In addition, all videos of the inspections are securely stored for historical reference.
There are roughly 7 million miles of electrical lines throughout the U.S., and every inch has to be inspected visually. This means that somebody has to climb each individual pole, look it over, check the connectors and insulators, etc. The process is laborious and time-consuming, not to mention, again, inherently dangerous. On the other hand, a small drone can look over an entire pole and the corresponding lines in no more than a minute or two. It also eliminates the risk posed by climbing poles. UAS data capture can also be compared over a course of time to track deterioration rates of key components of any type of structure ensuring not only a safe structure now, but also forecasting for safe structures in the future.
Utility inspection teams need to hold safety as the highest priority. A successful mission includes a safe takeoff and landing as well as the delivery of high-quality and detail-rich images of the structures. With over 1,000 hours of flight time and more than 6,000 incident-free sorties, the MissionGO team has put in the time and training to offer quality multiplied by efficiency.
Drones are one of the most significant technological advancement in the utility industry for inspections. Traditionally, inspections have been manual and are often labor-intensive, slow, and dangerous. Drones are safe, reliable, fast, and benefit from recording every second of the inspection for historical reference and accountability. The key is incredibly well-trained teams operating in a manner that mimics aviation safety standards. This is MissionGO’s trademark. This is the MissionGO standard.