Public infrastructures form the veins of every society, and include technical structures like roads, waterways, bridges, railways, and airports. Maintaining these structures is essential for the proper functioning of modern economies, yet it is also very costly.
There are several methods for turbine inspection from the cherry picker, service platform, hydraulic crane to rope descent. The problem with these methods is that they involve heavy equipment or climbing, which is time consuming, costly and very dangerous.
One of the biggest difficulties faced by maintenance and inspection services is how to cover the vast area that some structures occupy. The structures need to be inspected closely in order to perform proper maintenance; however, the physical inspection of each part requires a significant amount of time, which costs money.
One of the most efficient alternatives to physical inspections is using drones for inspection. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are able to carry various cameras for both day and night inspection, and can also be equipped with additional sensors such as thermographic and sniffers, as well as having the ability to be programmed to regularly fly specific routes. Drones are able to inspect larger areas in different, more efficient ways, in less time, and also at lower costs, allowing for an increased frequency in regular inspections, faster problem recognition, thus resulting in fewer negative externalities.
Power lines distribute electricity at very high voltages, making the maintenance of power lines is a risky job, and one which requires careful attention and caution from all involved. In order to maintain power lines effectively, the pylons must be examined regularly, and their insulators must be inspected in order to detect thermographic problems.
Inspections are traditionally carried out from the ground or via the use of a helicopter. Line inspectors that work from the ground must climb the posts to access the power lines. Helicopters are a safer option, but they are much more expensive and intrusive.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) provide a safer and cheaper alternative to traditional methods. They are easy to deploy, and carry cameras that produce high resolution footage and thermal images. UAVs or drones can also be equipped with transmitters that share the footage in real time, allowing the operator to see exactly what is going on at a given time. Drones are able to fly within a couple of metres of the power lines, thus providing high quality footage in the safest possible way.