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Game of drones at Interserve

Game of drones at Interserve
5th April 2017

Game of drones at Interserve

The world is going through a technological revolution where automation has become a vital and integral part of the majority of operations. The facilities management (FM) sector is no exception – it cannot move forward without data-based solutions and automated operations.

Facilities management today is proving to be as exciting as the advanced manufacturing and technology industries and Interserve is among the organisations leading the way in this field. Today, not only is it about providing operationally efficient services to customers – it is about finding better, more sustainable and speedy ways to deliver the innovation our customers need.

Flying High

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs – or drones as they are better known) are being used by Interserve to ensure the fastest and most precise surveys of rooftops, walls, large areas of land and other hard-to-reach locations. These relatively small flying objects usually have 15-25 minutes of battery life and can lift up to 20 kilograms (44 pounds); they only need one minute to get set up for a flight and can fly as high as 122 metres, which equates to a 37-floor-building.

High-definition cameras mounted to unmanned aerial vehicles allow us to survey all properties from a bird’s eye view – the most miniscule details in hard-to-reach areas are now captured, recorded and revealed with no hassle or risk of injuries to our frontline staff. All evidence is available in video, photo and thermal imaging formats.

The data captured allows us to create and analyse 360 degree images, 3D models and thermal imagery that captures any temperature related anomalies – poorly insulated areas, water pooling or leaks.

Thermal imaging from up high

The University of Sussex is a great example of a recent UAV deployment – the campus is vast, approximately 170 acres, with a 6,500 foot long district heating system buried a few feet underground. It cannot be seen with the naked eye but it is there – providing warm water and heating, as well as all risks associated with water leaks and pipeline malfunction.

Drone flights at night and day

A UAV trial using thermal imaging cameras at the University of Sussex was set up to survey the district heating system and find all anomalies or potential sources of water leakage. Using a thermal imaging camera gave us the opportunity to see a thermal footprint of the area and all objects in it. Having a full understanding of the environment and circumstances, it is easy to explain even a difference of a few centigrade in the thermal footprint and spot any anomalies.

During the survey at University of Sussex, three separate flights amounting to six hours in the air allowed us to survey critical areas of the heating network – two flights during the night with thermal imaging camera and an additional flight with a daylight photo camera to gather precise environmental information to explain variables and their impact on the thermal footprint.

Daylight photo vs. thermal imaging photo

Deploying UAV thermal imaging enabled us to narrow down the potential sources of water leaks due to temperature differentials on the surface. Instead of being suspicious of every foot of the pipeline, a few areas are diagnosed and proposed for a further investigation – excavation and fixing of the leak.

UAV thermal imaging surveys have several advantages over conventional methods – not only are they less labour intensive and more time-efficient, but its use also dramatically reduces the impact on facility occupants – in this case students. During the flight a drone can capture up to 500 metres (1640 feet) of horizontal view in comparison to few feet with hand held cameras. Furthermore, a drone can be easily operated by one or two people depending on the scope and complexity of the area.

At Interserve, we are constantly looking for and finding new and innovative ways to use drones throughout our FM contracts, making our industry an even more exciting place to be as the technological revolution continues.

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