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Drones are being used in engineering to expand on the capabilities of human lead operations through remote sensing as well as through their actuation and predictive capabilities. They are already being used in a number of specific applications within the industry, bringing benefits such as bringing down costs, reducing risk, boosting quality and providing a competitive edge.
The Growth of Drone Usage
Drones, or UAVs, have seen rapid growth in civilian and (non-military) industrial sectors since 2015. A study by Goldman Sachs has estimated that the military and civilian drone market combined will grow to a value of $100 billion by next year.
They also estimate that non-military usage will account for $17 billion, with construction accounting for a huge $11.2, representing a significant majority of the non-military portion.
Benefits of Drones in Engineering
Optimizing Project and Maintenance Costs
Engineering can rely upon drones to carry out tasks that up until now would have had to have been completed by a human workforce. This has the impact of lessening costs through reducing reliance on labor, as well as boosting quality through controlling for accuracy. Examples of tasks they can be used to complete include conducting topographic surveys, as well as taking over the monitoring of stock/tools required for a particular project.
Further to this, drones can be used for maintenance procedures that would previously have resulted in costs through shutting down operations and through the requirement of costly tools.
Reducing Exposure to Workers
Engineering projects that seek to take place in challenging and/or dangerous terrains are benefiting greatly from the use of drones.
Inspections of areas can be done by drones from the sky, rather than risking workers’ safety by calling on them to complete the task. In addition, drones can be used to deliver equipment and supplies when the construction site is in an area that is difficult to traverse.
Enable Best Decisions to Improve Quality
Engineering projects face the challenge of needing data fed back in real-time in order to inform decision making and improve on the quality of the work as well as keeping the project on track in terms of deadlines. Drones are now being used to solve this problem, where engineers are using them to collect information and relay it in real-time, providing an ever up-to-date picture of operations so that managers can make informed decisions.
Through this use of drones, delays can be avoided as they can be foreseen, and the quality of the work can be improved.
Specific Applications of Drones in Engineering
Drones are currently being used to run surveillance on networks of power lines, providing a cheap and safe way of gaining information on damage, rust and vegetation growth which may hinder the function of the power lines.
Volumetric calculation capabilities can measure stockpile volumes from the images captured by drones. This means that inventory monitoring can be automated without the need for a human workforce, and deliveries of necessary tools and equipment can also be automated.
Detailed 3D maps can be used to inform managers of engineering projects on how new worksites should be designed to achieve the greatest efficiency, drones asset greatly in this job through their ability to quickly survey large areas.
Monitoring of Gas Emissions
Drones can be equipped with thermal imaging in order to identify gas leaks, which are a concern to engineering projects. Being able to spot them quickly prevents costly shutdowns and risks to workers’ health and safety.
Drones can be used to detect failures of pylons by using thermal and UV cameras.
Overall, drones have already established their use in engineering, and are already being relied upon for many jobs. Companies are seeing the benefits of using drones, such as cost reduction, improving worker safety and enabling decision making. In the future, we can expect drone use in this sector to continue to grow and shape the landscape.