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Drone technology for infrared thermography

Drone technology for infrared thermography

You may want to have an infrared survey carried out for a variety of reasons. Infrared thermal imaging technology is ideal for detecting defects and energy deficiencies of buildings and housing stocks. Combined with drone technology, it becomes a limitless tool.

Let's take a closer look at drones.

ENHANCING IRT SURVEYING: FROM FOOTPRINTS TO DRONE FLIGHTS

For 16 years IRT Surveys have been surveying buildings using infrared thermographic (IRT) cameras. Mostly on foot. This means that when it is a high building or a flat roof which needs surveyed, equipment  such as cherry pickers have to be hired. This has cost implications for our clients and Health & Safety implications for our certified thermographers and anybody or building in the surrounding area.

There are other technologies available:

  • Radio controlled tethered air balloons: wind and power lines make them impractical.
  • Telescopic pneumatic mast bolted to a van:  a relatively successful technology that IRT Surveys used for years. Ideal then to capture an entire flat roof in a handful of images. The downsides are time-consuming set up, dangerous in windy conditions, and taking images at weird and unexpected angles. Also from a practical point of view, parking the van at the correct location for carrying out the infrared survey can be problematic. The whistling noise created when driving the van is also distracting. Today, masts are largely a thing of the past thanks to other technological advances.
  • Radio controlled helicopters have been around for years, but are difficult to fly and terrifying with the blades and internal combustion engines wiring away.

Nowadays we use drones. IRT Surveys have a small fleet of drones in the UK operated by CAA approved, ITC qualified thermographers with night-time licenses.

3 ADVANTAGES OF DRONE TECHNOLOGY FOR IRT SURVEYING

Drones are a breeze to fly and present at least three main advantages.

  1. Drones are safe and get the camera to places that are cost-prohibited by any ground based system. From a high vantage point we can also cover large areas in a short window of time.  They are therefore ideal for tall building and flat roof surveying.
  2. They are capable of carrying thermal imaging cameras better than handheld ones to heights that neither a mast nor a cherry picker could reach.
  3. The flight plan can be programmed on a tablet allowing the drone to fly largely autonomously . Since it’s usually us humans that crash the things, this can only be a good thing.

As with any technology, they aren't perfect and and their future will be determined by regulation. Many companies are investing in anti-drone technology now to shoot drones out of the sky. We shall see how this materialises.

CONDITIONS TO USE DRONE TECHNOLOGY FOR IRT SURVEYING

  • The thermographer must have the permission to survey the buildings, the owners/tenants and neighbouring buildings of the activity.
  • An area adjacent to the surveying site must be cordoned off for take-off and landing.
  • A qualified operator has to provide his permissions to operate with certificate from the CAA. Without this the operator will not be insured.
  • They has to carry out risk assessments that are site specific.
  • Finally they also need thermography experience in order to capture the correct data and setting up the correct parameters required for the job in hand.

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR THE USE OF DRONE TECHNOLOGY IN IRT SURVEYING?

Like all emerging technologies, the sector is full of “give-it-a-go-heroes”. Fast forward 5-10 years they will be gone, the market consolidated and a handful of professionals left doing it properly.

For IRT surveys, it is a nice thing to have available to us. Still 95% of our surveys are still done on foot by thermographers at night in low wind.

Maybe down the line when you call we will simply deploy a local drone to your building and not need the skilled local thermographers to actually take the pictures at all. Their role will become one of convincing you it’s a good idea and to talk you through the findings and recommend solutions based upon technical knowledge and experience.

Looking in the short to medium term, at IRT Surveys, we can’t see the drones replacing a skilled human just yet though. But like the humble hammer, there will come times when you need a drone. It is always handy to have the tool in your box.

Do you have high buildings or flat roofs which require surveyed with thermal imaging? If so, please do contact us for a fast, impartial and clear survey.

Managing your expectations for a stress-free IRT survey report

Managing your expectations for a stress-free IRT survey report

Stress-free IRT Survey

Commissioning an infrared thermographic (IRT) survey is easy. We tell you here what you can expect during the survey process so that you have a stress-free IRT survey.

Reasons for commissioning an IRT survey

We have already pointed to a few strategic reasons why you would commission an infrared survey. We have been providing infrared services to the construction professional sector in the UK for 14 years and the reasons are wide and varied but can be distilled down into 3 main headings.

  • You have a problem and nothing else seems to be helping resolve it.
  • You are not sure if you have a problem and want an expert opinion.
  • You definitely have building issues and no-one can agree who is to blame.

More often than not you are seeking a reactive survey to a problem which manifests itself in a new building or refurbishment project. IRT surveys is often called upon as a “silver bullet” solution.

Managing your expectations

Managing your  expectations as a client is part of what’s involved in the process. Most of our clients have little technological knowledge of IRT. They rightly rely on us to know what we are doing and wrongly  do sometimes ask impossible things. No, we cannot find a leak on a roof from a satellite in space. You need a thermal imaging camera mounted on a drone and a thermographer for that.

The technology has its limitations. But you will be blown away by just how useful a tool IRT is for the maintenance of your site. Here are the 4 common expectations from our clients that we systematically need to address if we want you to have a stress-free IRT survey.

Your expectation: ‘My thermal pictures will be really sharp.’

We have already discussed the technology and science behind IRT. Today’s cameras are digital, radiometric (every pixel has a value), portable, un-cooled and affordable. We use FLIR cameras. They fit in our pocket and can be bought for less than £500. That alone is great news for us all.

Don’t expect great resolution as this is still way behind that of your average smartphone though, but that will change. Fast forward 10 years and they will be embedded in every smart phone.

Your expectation: ‘The survey will be conducted as soon as I submit the purchase order’.

How do we take an image properly, i.e. an image you can rely upon to make an investment-grade decision?

Once you have established your need to get a survey done and contacted us to describe your problem to one of our team members, you decide to proceed. Your deadline will be our major hurdle.

The weather is the biggest challenge we have. We need the right conditions to carry out a successful survey. No point promising you that it will be on your desk tomorrow if it is raining today and is too windy the next day. We need cool, dark, dry evenings to take thermal images. This means that you will have to wait until the weather conditions are correct.

Your expectation: ‘You can come and survey at anytime.’

The shape and height of your buildings are not a problem: with our fleet of drones we can survey tens of thousands of metres of flat roofs in under one hour. We even take care of the civil aviation and insurance bureaucracy.

Access to your premises may be a problem though. We need to be able to see the entire fabric externally, internally, in daytime and again at night time. Sometimes special entry permission are required as invariably there will be out-of-hours access required. You need to make sure that security personnel has been informed, that someone is available to open and close the doors, that required authorisation  has been given and recorded. We can’t enter premises without this, and will have to come back if we can’t get access, hence delaying the survey and the reporting.

Your expectation: ‘I’ll get the report the day after the survey is done.’

Once thermal images of your building have been captured, depending on the size of your project, there is in general up to 5 days worth of  skillful analysis to be conducted. We don’t take this lightly and do make recommendations based on the findings so that you can target repairs or refurbishment. This is what your infrared survey report is here to deliver: visual results and impartial advice so that you can make informed decisions.

Managing your expectations for a stress-free IRT survey report

With trouble-free access, the right weather and up-to-date equipment, we stand an excellent chance of successfully meeting your objectives.   If you are contemplating stripping off a flat roof on the advice of your flat roof leak survey report you are paying for, you best make sure you can trust the company providing that advice.

Used properly, IRT is an amazing technology which can save you thousands of pounds on your maintenance budget. By knowing what makes a valuable survey and its subsequent report, you are guaranteed a stress-free IRT survey experience.

Are you looking to refurbish your buildings and don’t know where to start? We will be happy to advise you. Please contact us for your free no-obligation quote by clicking on the button below.

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Innovative surveying technology for built asset management

Innovative surveying technology for built asset management

Innovative surveying technology

Seems you can’t move these days without hearing about drones, apps and thermal imaging, but are they truly helpful or just gimmicks? We managed to get almost all the way to 2016 without them.

Like every new industry that erupts from an emerging technology, there are people who take it seriously and do it professionally and those who charge in to make a quick buck. And like every other example in history, the cream rises to the top, the market consolidates and the cowboys are eventually driven out by the sheriff who is usually better known as legislation.

Innovative technology: Thermal imaging

Thermal imaging, or infrared thermography, has – and still is – going through this process. Companies like iRed, Thermascan, Ti and IRT surveys have been around now for more than a dozen years each. There is a healthy respect and competitive market out there. But there are a myriad of smaller companies buying low end equipment, not training themselves properly and going to market with nothing more than a nice looking website. This is why asking the right questions when making your research on infrared companies is important.

Innovative surveying technology: Drones

The same can be said of the drone industry, only it’s 20 years behind the infrared world. It is experiencing a lot of negative press also with an emerging industry to shoot them out of the sky – yep – anti drone tech is also out there. It is a little known fact that over 80% of drone pilots don’t renew their license after year one. It either means the vast majority of the market are novices, or that the failure rate is enormous.

Innovative surveying technology: IoT

The IoT industry is the next big thing for the built environment for sure. If you haven’t come across the anachronism before, it stands for the Internet of Things. Everything from your toothbrush to your fridge will be connected to the net. Lightbulbs will tell you when they become inefficient. HVAC systems will call the engineer themselves and tell him what parts they need, before they brake. Fuses will alert the electrician, or some form of R2D2 unit to repair them before they blow.

When the building itself senses that something isn’t quite right, drones will be deployed to survey a building at night, equipped with an infrared thermal imaging system. Smart meter and sensor technology is moving at an alarming pace. Or exciting pace depending upon your perspective. I love the idea that a sensor will send me a message with GPS co-ordinates to a defectuous building that we can survey and report on.

Innovative surveying technology: Caution required

Huge caution though. Just because things get all high tech and whizz bang, doesn’t make the operative an expert. Interpreting the cause for failure and understanding what the tech is telling you still requires a skilled person. No software will ever replace an experienced RICS qualified surveyor with 20 years under their belt. A sensor or thermal image may say your insulation is 20% saturated on your flat roof – a common defect – the image may point clearly to the origin of the leak but only a human can see that the roofer lapped the felt the wrong way, or didn’t seal the lap joints correctly.

Technological innovation for surveying is unstoppable.

The technology is coming, some of it is here already. It’s unstoppable. Best embrace it, swimming upstream is exhausting. But fear not: the dystopian Star Trek world, where no-one has a job and everything is leisure time, is a long way off. De-skilling mundane tasks and de-bugging our built environment will free us up to focus on bigger challenges!

Would you like to know more about how thermal imaging and drones can ease the management of your asset portfolio? Click on the button below to contact us to discuss your surveying requirements and for your free and no-obligation quote.

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