Mark Patrick Collins, Associate Professor, Unmanned Systems, from Indiana State University, discusses UgCS for building and roof inspections.
“There has been a large interest by the construction, engineering, real estate, and insurance community to use UAS for building and roof inspections. Building facade inspection programs are mandated by many cities in the United States to proactively identify unsafe conditions that may present a risk of causing injury or damage to property. While the specific requirements of each city’s ordinances differ, all regulations stipulate that inspections be performed at regular intervals. For example, in Chicago buildings, 80 feet tall or more must be inspected every 4-12 years, based on the assigned category of the building (Vertical Access, n.d.). These types of visual inspections are costly and dangerous because they are normally performed with rope or scaffolding by highly trained inspectors. Now stakeholders can operate these inspections without getting a waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Since the FAA nationwide deployment of Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) and 14 CFR Part 107 went into effect, stakeholders can now obtain approval to operate inspection missions in urban environments even with multiple airports or helipads around. However, performing this type of job by flying it manually would be extremely difficult for the most experienced remote pilot. That is why stakeholders are using autonomous operations to perform this type of inspection safely and accurately. They are doing this by using software programs like UgCS by SPH Engineering to plan and fly the missions.
UgCS is an advanced mission planning software that can be used to plan and fly complex missions where hazards or no-fly zones might exist. Users can create a façade flight plan vertically across each facade of the building. Users can set the distances from the building and the overlap and UgCS automatically calculates the optimal flight path for the vertical grid pattern. The façade scans can be done with either an RGB or thermal camera. Pictures of the façade are taken with the camera at an oblique angle along either a vertical or horizontal flight path of the building. Each picture is geo-referenced so that users can create 2D or 3D orthomosaic maps of the building much in the same way they do for surveying and mapping missions. Post-processing of the data can include object identification software used to count and identify objects on the building while change detection algorithms can be used to identify what has changed over time. The drones that would be best suited for this type of inspection would be the Yuneec H520, DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise, DJI M200, DJI Inspire 1 or 2, DJI Matrice 600, Lockheed Martin Indago UAS, or a Mavlink compatible multicopter. One advantage of using the DJI Mavic 2 is that it has a spotlight that can light up shadowed areas of the building. Many times architectural recesses could be hidden by shadows cast over the area so having an external light aids inspection in these areas”.
For more details on UgCS read the 2nd chapter under Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Applications.