FREMONT, CA: The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) states that numerous roads, bridges, railways, energy grids, ports, airports, and water systems have outlived their designated lifespan. But infrastructure maintenance requires investment and time. Apart from being slow and expensive, maintenance work can be unsafe too. Workers are needed to trim trees, climb towers, and work near high-speed traffic. In the case of natural disasters, the conditions are worse for the workers.
Drones can make it convenient to investigate cracks in the bridges, monitor pipelines, survey miles of transmission and distribution pipelines, and much more.
Here are a few applications of drones:
1. For Transmission and Distribution Lines
Field workers and engineers already use drones for several aspects of utility operations, including power line inspection. Post-Hurricane Maria restoration work in Puerto Rico, a team, used drones to pull 72,000 feet of cable for conductor wire thereby reducing the job to eight weeks that would have taken six to eight months.
2. Bridges, Culverts, Highways, Underpasses, and Overpasses
Drones allow significant cost cutting in this aspect. The Minnesota Department of Transportation discovered that using drones for bridge inspection eliminates some or all of the costs based on its configuration and location. Moreover, the drones provide far superior data with the use of tools like 3D modeling.
3. For Oil and Gas Pipelines
Oil, gas, and produced water, a byproduct after oil refinement, are transported through 10 million kilometers of pipeline. The cost of surveillance for the oil and gas (O&G) industry across the globe is around $37 billion annually. Drone technology can potentially reduce the traditional monitoring cost by 90 percent.
4. Other O&G Infrastructure
Whether it is storage tanks, flare stacks, or offshore platforms, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones provide greater visibility over sensitive equipment. Leakage surveys, in-line non-destructive testing, and LiDAR 3D are a few of the drones use cases used by the O&G companies.
5. Solar Plant Drone Inspection
According to a global consulting firm, drones offset the cost of inspection of utility-scale solar farms between 30 to 40 percent. Data collection with the help of infrared imaging lowers the inspection time.
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