Our top drones for inspection in 2020
Thanks to their ever-improving accuracy, greater efficiency, cost savings and enhanced safety features. Drones (or unmanned aerial vehicles – UAVs) are changing the way that companies around the world perform inspections. In fact, the drone inspection market continues to grow as technology enables more and more applications. With all the different options out there, we’ve compiled our list top drones for inspection list.
We’ll take you through the following in this article:
- How drones are transforming inspection processes,
- The benefits of drone inspection,
- How using drones for inspections reduces costs,
- Applications of drone inspection,
- Drone inspection cost versus traditional inspection cost,
- Our top 6 drones for inspection in 2020,
- You can download our full Drones for Inspection brochure here.
How drones are transforming inspection processes
Drones are being increasingly used in almost every industry that requires visual inspections as part of its maintenance, production and service procedures. A visual inspection is simply a careful and thorough review of every single part of an asset. Utilising a drone to undertake a visual inspection uses the drone’s camera to act as the inspector’s eyes.
Visual data is collected by the UAV and then reviewed in detail by the inspector. Not all drone inspections are visual. Any kind of sensor which can be fitted to the UAV can be used for inspection. For example, thermal cameras can identify heat leaking for a building or be used to locate people. Multispectral sensors are used in agriculture and enable farmers to record images of crops to analyse their state.
Drones are a valuable addition to the inspector’s toolbox. Sometimes inspectors might prefer to directly look at something with their own eyes. That can be coupled with a drone application to ensure a full, three-dimensional evaluation, but often using a drone in isolation is the perfect tool for the job.
The benefits of drone inspection
Organisations and their drone operators benefit from both previously unavailable levels of visibility and lower cost by utilising UAVs rather than traditional human, airplane or helicopter methods. Using drones offers improved worker protection and access to information on assets in many dynamic and challenging industries. Drones reduce risk, save on the need for the temporary and permanent structures required to perform inspections, reduce downtime and provide accurate data on an asset’s life history.
At the end of the day, if you’re still inspecting your assets with rope access, then you really need to be considering the impact that drones will have on the safety, speed and cost savings.
How using drones for inspections reduces costs
Inspections are simply a part of the maintenance or performance monitoring processes in industrial, commercial and agricultural environments. Most often, perhaps as much as 80 per cent of the time, inspections will find no problem that requires fixing. That makes inspections an inefficient process when sending a human inspector to undertake the work.
Drone inspections can enormously reduce costs and offer significant returns on investment. By using a drone to collect visual, real-time and recorded data on the condition of an asset, UAV inspections help inspectors avoid having to place themselves in dangerous situations. By significantly reducing the amount of time personnel are placed in hazardous situations, companies can also reduce their corresponding liability insurance costs.
Erecting scaffolding to allow a person to perform a manual inspection is expensive. Building scaffolding takes time and results in significant levels of downtime. By only building scaffolding when actual maintenance is required, companies can reduce their corresponding expenses by as much as 90 per cent. This is something that scores big points with finance departments!
Given the relatively low cost of drone inspections, many companies are using them to perform inspections more regularly, which means that potential problems can be surfaced and addressed more quickly. Drone data represents a meticulous record of the condition of an asset over time. By collecting and archiving visual data, companies have a digital footprint of the asset’s life history that can be accessed at any time.
Not only that, software now exists that allows transfer of data from the drones and the creation of reports to send to key stakeholders possible on the same day. One example being AIVA – the Ultimate Inspection Software Tool for doing just that. Getting the information to key stakeholders as quickly and effectively as possible. We’re talking hours, not days.
Applications of drone inspection
The environments which benefit from drone inspections are wide-ranging and ever-expanding. But, in particular, include agriculture, chemicals industries, in construction, infrastructure and utilities sectors, the insurance industry, mining, oil and gas, and public safety.
Specific examples of where UAVs are used in the above sectors include power line monitoring, the inspection of wind turbines, mobile phone masts, railways, roads, bridges and a host of other civil engineering projects. In agriculture, drones can be used to monitor livestock and crops.
In the insurance industry, UAVs are an increasingly powerful tool for inspecting the condition of buildings and sites, damaged assets and car accident scenes.
For public safety organisations, drones can inspect events arenas, gather data on crime, fire and disasters and aid incident reconstruction.
Drone inspection cost versus traditional inspection cost
There are numerous examples of specific applications where drones have delivered considerable efficiencies compared with traditional inspection methods. Take a look at these two:
1) According to research carried out by the UK Drone Safety Register on a specific example of inspections in the construction industry, savings achieved by utilising a drone can be anywhere between 70 and 85 per cent. For example, they concluded that the total cost of erecting scaffolding to perform a roof inspection would be £1,250. Using an elevated platform would cost £1,050. Yet the cost of deploying a drone would be around £500.
2) When West Sussex Council commissioned Balfour Beatty to trial bridge inspection work using drones, the result was a direct saving of £8,000 per inspection. Not only that, but using a UAV reduced disruption and inconvenience to the public and road users, and lowered potential health and safety risks.
Our top drones for inspection in 2020
So, what about the six best inspections drones on the market? I’ve whittled it down to the DJI Matrice 300 RTK, DJI Matrice 210 v2, the Flyability Elios 2, the AceCore Zoe, DJI’s M600 with PhaseOne imaging technology, the DJI Mavic Enterprise and the Parrot Anafi. You can find out more about the applications of each one below:
The DJI 210 Matrice v2
The DJI 210 Matrice v2 is a top-of-the-range commercial drone manufactured by Chinese firm DJI. The world-leading manufacturer of UAVs was founded in 2006 and now accounts for over 75 per cent of the commercial drone market in the USA.
Founder Frank Wang flunked at school but at college he began building drones in his dorm room. With the help of some school friends, by 2017 he had become Asia’s youngest tech billionaire when still some way short of his 40th birthday.
The aerial productivity platform of the Matrice 210 v2 combines a rugged design and simple configurability to work as a solution for a variety of industrial applications. These include surveying, building and inspection, wind turbine inspection and search and rescue.
In October 2019, a DJI Matrice 10 helped find a missing 6-year-old boy in a dark cornfield in Minnesota. The boy, named Ethan, was found safe after more than 600 volunteers had participated in the search. It was one of the volunteers flying a DJI Matrice 210, fitted with a thermal camera, who spotted the missing boy.
The DJI Matrice 300 RTK
Matrice 300 RTK is DJI’s latest commercial drone platform that takes inspiration from modern aviation systems. Offering up to 55 minutes of flight time, advanced AI capabilities, 6 Directional Sensing & Positioning and more, the M300 RTK sets a whole new standard by combining intelligence with high-performance and unrivalled reliability.
This powerhouse has really set the bar high when it comes to drones and inspection.
The Flyability Elios 2
The Elios 2 is an indoor inspection drone, designed to fly in confined spaces. The model is collision-resilient and has a shockproof payload thanks to its caged design – allowing it to roll off walls and narrow spaces – and the unit has seven vision stability sensors.
The Elios 2 is ideally suited to operation within bridge girders, mine tunnels and around the lighting and ventilating systems of a factory floor. Handling such challenging conditions reduces the risk from dark, dirty and dangerous places posed to human inspectors.
Established in 2014, the Swiss-based manufacturer has rapidly expanded and opened its first American base in 2020. Flyability specialise in drones built to operate in restricted areas with applications in infrastructure, power generation, and public safety.
The Elios can also reduce the need for erecting scaffolding and minimise downtime of boilers, stacks and power facilities caused by stoppages for human inspection. Indoor drone inspections have enabled enormous returns on investment for energy companies who own industrial assets. Flyability CEO and co-founder Patrick Thévoz has long been a champion of the power of indoor drones to drive business efficiency and safety.
Designed and hand-made in the Netherlands, the AceCore Zoe is an all-weather heavy-lift drone with a foldable design for ease of transportation and deployment. AceCore boasts that the Zoe comes with the largest payload capacity of any industrial quadcopter, capable of lifting 14 lbs.
At the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, AceCore added a loudspeaker to its Zoe model to enable emergency services to enforce lockdown measures via a pre-recorded message or speaking directly to crowds.
Thanks to its stability in high winds and its waterproof design, the AceCore Zoe was utilised by the authorities in Puerto Rico to locate and repair fallen power lines in the wake of Hurricane Maria, saving countless man-hours and money. AceCore Zoes have been deployed in a wide range of outdoor applications. Including, security and surveying, in the agricultural sectors, and energy asset inspection and mapping.
DJI M600 and Phase One
Phase One Industrial’s iXU and iXU-RS 1000 aerial cameras are fully integrated with both DJI’s M600 and M600 Pro drones. This combined cohesion makes for a powerful commercial UAV. The advanced Phase One photogrammetry, combined with DJI’s robust and versatile drone technology, enables critical infrastructure monitoring and innovative inspection tools.
With its lightweight design and small size, the Phase One cameras are ideally suited for use with the M600 and M600 Pro models. And with their waterproof designs, the image solutions have been specially designed for UAVs. The lenses are available with either fixed-focus or motorised-focus functionality ideally lending themselves to mapping, surveying and inspection applications. Phase One units possess application for iOS. Enabling full camera control and remote management via DJI’s remote control system, with an intuitive and user-friendly interface.
DJI’s M600 range offers powerful aerial platforms, ideal for professional cinematographers, aerial photography and industrial applications. The models have customisable long-range controllers with an operating range of up to 3 miles. A DJI M600 was recently used to identify remaining radiation hotspots at the Chernobyl site. And Network Rail is one giant which utilises a fleet of M600 drones for inspection of the UK railway infrastructure.
The Mavic Enterprise
The Mavic Enterprise by DJI is an excellent choice for companies, organisations, and professionals looking for an entry-level yet powerful commercial drone. With the same basic attributes as the pricier drones in the DJI range. The Mavic Enterprise may not be as feature-packed as its more expensive cousins. But a visual and thermal camera can be added as well as a spotlight, beacon, and loudspeaker.
The Mavic Enterprise has been used by American Airlines to inspect aircraft and has been mobilised in the Ukraine to monitor recent forest fires. Emergency services opted for the Mavic Enterprise due to its compact size and the fact it could be launched immediately “from the box”.
French company Parrot are one of the few genuine competitors to drone giant DJI. The Parrot Anafi is a compact, affordable and capable drone that captures aerial footage in 4K. The Anafi stands out in the commercial drone market thanks to the image quality the model is able to deliver. No other UAV in the Parrot’s price range can deliver HDR footage.
HDR footage is a boon for drone operators requiring excellence in video by balancing the exposure between bright and dark areas better. Something that is a challenge when shooting a skyline or horizon. The zoom options negate the need to buy a high-end professional drone with interchangeable lenses.
The Anafi is foldable making it a convenient and compact option. Combined with the model’s 25 minute flight time the Parrot is ideal for those who move around frequently to capture footage. The Anafi marks Parrot’s renewed push to develop drones for commercial markets. The Anafi has already been earmarked as an ideal option for applications. Including fire fighting, solar panel inspection, search-and-rescue missions, and anti-poaching operations.
Where can you buy all these drones from?
So that was our top 6 drones for inspection in 2020. All offer a solid flying experience and high-quality imaging and data capture to enable commercial and industrial inspections. Each is especially suited to a range of applications. But which is best for your own business or organisation’s inspection requirements?
At Coptrz we have the largest range of commercial drone solutions available in the UK. If you’re interested in any of the drones listed above, then don’t hesitate to contact our team of Industry Experts today.
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