The expanding use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to collect data on critical infrastructure is transforming how a range of industries manage their assets.
Evolving UAS, sensors and analytics tools are creating a step-change from traditional surveying and inspection methods to offer higher quality, more accurate and usable data.
Insitu Commercial Solutions Director Asia Pacific, Andrew Donald, said that the use of highly temporal airborne remote sensing capabilities was ushering in an era of significant commercial business improvements via automation in the sector.
According to Mr Donald, whether it’s a case of rail, road, energy or utility asset management, leveraging the use of UAS and the data they collect is key to streamlining workflow and generating tangible savings in asset maintenance and operational costs.
“Our experience in working with customers in government, civil construction and large-scale resource extraction has shown us that the quality data we collect from persistent aerial sensing is allowing industries to work more efficiently, safely and productively,” Mr Donald said.
“Insitu has honed professional flight experience through over one million flight hours globally, and we also know that the data management environment is pivotal in solving commercial business challenges by allowing data from other sources such as ground operations to be correlated with the airborne sensor data, to generate a complete picture of assets and their condition.”
Advances in sensor technology
Rapid advancements in sensor technologies, such as Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), open up a range of new opportunities across the construction, utility and linear asset space. Sites that were once hard to reach or access, can now be regularly surveyed, geospatially tagged and monitored, avoiding the need for personnel to be in direct contact with hazards. Data sets can be delivered within hours in many cases.
“We’re applying a range of sensors including LiDAR, thermal imaging, Electro-Optic, Infra-Red, photogrammetry, day and night video, and multispectral linear asset inspection to get the right information at the right time to help our customers make critical decisions,” Mr Donald said.
“We can then extract precise information for a range of applications such as 3D Digital Surface Model (DSM); volumetric assessment; elevation change; automatic object, vegetation and change detection; plan compliance; automated inspection checklists; and emergency response information.”
In the case of linear asset inspections – for example railway inspections for bulge or crack detection, corrosion, vegetation encroachment or responding to weather events – persistent aerial remote sensing and data analysis can pinpoint issues quickly and on a broader scale than traditional methods.
“Whether we are streaming geospatial video into the control rooms of global corporations or delivering information to site managers on mobile devices, we can enable near real-time actioning about deployment of ground personnel, as well as collate data for long-term trend analysis,” Mr Donald said.
Machine learning to increase speed of data analysis
The benefits of aerial data collection become evident with persistent, repeatable inspections and mapping, where changes can be objectively and accurately compared over time. Creating a ‘digital twin’ can replace the need for multiple drawings of assets, models and sites.
The digital twin becomes a reliable baseline, and through repeated data capture and analysis, provides accurate change detection rapidly in an emergency response or for predictive maintenance.
Insitu continues to innovate as more businesses introduce autonomous systems into their asset management strategies.
To this end, Mr Donald said that Insitu’s beyond visual line of sight capability and data analysis are streamlining planning and management practices.
“With one flight and one pass, we can provide multiple analysis layers. Increasingly, we’re seeing the benefits of automatically detecting anomalies through the application of machine learning and computer vision to reduce the workload on human operators, increase their efficiency and importantly, enhance safety.
“There are boundless applications for this technology, and we’re excited to see where we can take these innovations into the future.”