Tiny unmanned aircraft gives industry eyes in the sky for high-risk site inspections

Aerial Photography Specialists (APS) has launched its latest unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) solution, making it safer and easier to conduct detailed inspections of difficult or inaccessible locations.

Known as “micro-drones”, the remote-controlled UAVs require just 1 metre square for launch and retrieval, making them suitable for offshore projects where the UAV can be launched from a ship or a safe area on an oil rig.

APS Managing Director Paul Martin says the solution is ideal for projects such as plant maintenance and powerline inspection where aircraft or cranes would usually be needed or where human access is difficult or dangerous.

“The ever increasing costs and complex logistics involved with hiring conventional aircraft make them a very expensive and inefficient way to take aerial photography,” said Mr Martin, himself an experienced helicopter pilot. “The UAV can fly out to the area of interest, perform the inspection from the air, manoeuvre in and around objects and send back live video and photographs for engineers to review in real time.”

APS has adopted a unique approach that is safe, cost effective and interactive to achieve spectacular results often not possible in any other way.

In one project, the UAV was used to inspect a multimillion-dollar wind turbine that had caught fire, losing its controls and brake system.

“The drone was programmed and sent out to inspect the damaged turbine from 5 metres away, relaying critical information to the engineers on the ground and allowing them to assess the turbine in a very vulnerable state without any risk to human life,” Mr Martin said.

“The UAV is ideal for undertaking highly detailed, aerial asset inspections and can do the dangerous and risky tasks that would otherwise have to be done by a human, removing the possibility of someone being injured or killed in high risk situations.

“In addition to the obvious safety benefits, the UAV makes life much easier for plant managers and maintenance personnel as it causes no disruption to operations, less paperwork and it’s more convenient than crane or helicopter hire.”

UAVs with a range of camera options can provide low altitude aerial photography, HD video footage, mapping and infrared imagery up to 400 feet (120 metres). The camera can be controlled from the ground, so that project managers and other personnel can be involved in the capture and image selection process.

The global positioning system (GPS) allows aerial photographs to be taken at a certain location in the sky at regular intervals, enabling an engineer, for example, to record the growth and expansion of their projects.

“Aerial time-lapse photography is also important for councils and government departments that need to monitor and assess changing environmental areas – without the cost and logistical issues of engaging a full sized aircraft,” Mr Martin.

“The UAV enables the capture of imagery often never previously possible and provides a much simpler solution to existing methods that may be costly or difficult to manage and organise. It has the ability to go places that are inaccessible to helicopters, including low level flying, indoors and confined spaces.”

Aerial Photography Specialists has a CASA certified UAV operators certificate, full public liability insurance and professional UAV equipment that is safe to use.