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Indoor Inspections with Drones – Opportunities for pilots and operators

by F.A.
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indoor inspections with drones increasingly represent a great business opportunity with drones for both pilots and operators. Performing inspections in confined, inaccessible and dangerous places for humans is a necessity in the context of inspections, for example on tanks, infrastructures, silos, etc.

It is obvious that carrying out an inspection in a indoor environment (i.e. restricted with accessibility limitations) has implications from a technical point of view, which can be summarized in two points:

  • operational capacity of the pilot,
  • availability of a suitable drone for this type of inspection.

So let’s see in detail the requirements of the pilot and the drone, of interest for those who want to establish a start-up dedicated to indoor inspections with drones, which goes beyond simple inspections and surveys through drones.

Capabilities of drone pilot for indoor inspections

Carrying out indoor inspections with drones implies piloting the drone in conditions of objective “limitation” both in terms of space and visibility.

The space, within which the pilot must fly the drone, to capture the elements and aspects of the inspection, are in fact very limited and often have internal obstacles such as bottlenecks, curved walls, devices, for which the pilot must be able to fly a lot close to these obstacles without touching them, to “detect” the state of, for example, joints, welds, bolting, etc.

With regard to visibility, the pilot must be able to conduct the drone without being able to follow it with his eyes, i.e. in BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line Of Sight) flight conditions, and in totally dark spaces. The pilot must therefore be able to manage the drone flight and the inspection activity only through the on-board camera, which in real time will transmit the images to the pilot’s monitor, which will be illuminated by the drone itself.

It is therefore evident that the skills required of the pilot go beyond those commonly required for an external inspection, where the operating conditions are very different.

A drone pilot for indorr inspections is therefore certainly more paid because it is more difficult to find. It will be equipped with a license for drone piloting category in the “Open” and “Specific” category (see articles in the 4mydrone Blog “European EASA Drones Regulation – Catg. Open” and “European EASA Drones Regulation – Catg. Specific“), and will have a curriclum certifying its skills in the field of indoor inspections with drones.

The characteristics of the drone for indoor inspections

Therefore, if the drone pilot is required to control and supervise the drone in condition in most cases of complete darkness and non-perception of the surrounding space, just as many and no less important are the characteristics required of the drone for indoor inspections.

First of all, the drone must be equipped with:

  • a sufficiently powerful camera with excellent resolution, capable of acquiring images to allow inspection analysis,
  • a powerful lighting system to illuminate the drone’s movement area and what the camera is shooting,
  • a system of front, rear and bottom anti-collision sensors to avoid hitting the walls or obstacles inside the confined space,
  • but above all a protection cage of the drone that, even before the sensors can prevent the drone from crashing,
  • batteries that allow a high flight autonomy, to be able to carry out a confined inspection at the right times and according to a very precise methodology.

In the commercial field, there are professional drones with such characteristics that are already widely used in the context of indoor inspections with drones.

Opportunities for drone operators

Alongside the drone pilots, there may also be the figure of the drone operator who is none other than the entrepreneur who managed the business through his fleet of drones.

In practice, this figure often coincides with the drone pilot, but in an area such as that of confined drone inspections, it is an independent figure who invests in drones suitable for this type of inspection, manages the business and makes use of them of the work of one or more pilots.

The drone operator is therefore the reference point, capable of creating and managing the business related to indoor inspections, and must have a minimum of technical and operational knowledge to be able to conclude and manage good predictive and corrective maintenance contracts through inspections for indoor spaces with drones.

Opportunities for indoor inspections with drones

The opportunities associated with indoor inspections with drones, as already mentioned, are becoming increasingly important in various production areas.

Business areas for indoor inspections with drones

Sectors such as the oil industry, with the inspection of tanks, cisterns, pipes, require the safe execution of inspections in confined spaces, in the mining sector with the inspection of tunnels, burrows, excavation areas, in civil works with the ” inspection of pipes, sewers, collectors, tanks, chimneys, tunnels, technical rooms, etc.

The biggest problem is that in the face of an ever-increasing demand, the supply is limited, in the sense that there are few companies able to offer these services based on a proven methodology and with professionalism.

There is therefore ample space for those who wish to undertake an activity that is becoming increasingly strategic through a start-up.

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Credits related to the images: The featured image is taken from pixabay.com, free for commercial use and with no request for attribution. The author is StockSnap. The use of images within the article is for the purpose of a better understanding of the contents of the article.

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Last Updated on 22 February 2021 by F.A.

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