A Closer Look at Drone-based Facade Inspections

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A Closer Look at Drone-based Facade Inspections

A building with a stunning facade is indeed a visual treat. Facades are significant, not just aesthetically but also considering safety, especially with high-rise buildings. Furthermore, facades can be even more complicated with skyscrapers due to the complexity of the mix of materials used - concrete, glass, steel, and more. Any issues with these facades may arise during the construction or over time. This is why Facade inspection is crucial; it helps us verify a building structure's competency; it helps us identify property issues before they become "problems". But we can't really afford to move ahead with the same old time-consuming, labor-intensive, costly traditional practices anymore. Let drones do the job for you. Unlike the conventional facade inspection methods, drone-based facade inspections make the operation Safer, Efficient, and way more Cost-effective. Besides identifying structural deterioration, faults and flaws, drone data can also be used to record historical information, produce 3D point clouds, create comprehensive building-compliance documents, and much more.
Moreover, drones' automated mode of operation and the ability for real-time monitoring increase flexibility and efficiency. With a drone, it's a simple act of swapping payloads to attain a complete picture of your building facades. So let's dive deep into the drone-based facade inspections.

Why is Facade Inspection Important?

Knowing about the increasing cases of building-facade accidents from different parts of the world is really concerning. Likewise, we found several research papers and articles highlighting crucial public safety issues due to falling objects from tall residential buildings. These tragedies underline the importance of maintaining building infrastructures.

Knowing about the existing and potential issues is crucial to ensuring the safety, aesthetics and value of a building, as it helps the stakeholders to make timely actions. In addition, it can identify property issues before they become "problems". While this provides some assurance to owners, tenants, and the public alike— it remains vital for building owners, engineers, and corporations to identify problems and provide visibility into their buildings.

How to perform a Facade Inspection?

Regulations usually differ depending on the country, state, or even city. Also, in some countries, the requirements for periodic facade inspections are driven more by insurance companies. However, the inspection regulations usually depend on the building size and age. General issues that we look for in a facade inspection:
  • Any instances of water infiltration through the gaps between different building materials, cracks, and more.
  • Chances of facade elements fall on the ground; loose or damaged facade elements might fall, creating concern about public safety and questions about the integrity of the building.
  • Water staining or cracking on the interior of the building.
  • Efflorescence of the building facade elements.
  • Discolouration or hollowness of the facade elements.

Drone-based Facade Inspections v/s Traditional Inspection

Generally, the timeline of a traditional facade assessment per property is 30 days; that's where the time, cost and labour are focused. Traditionally, you'd need specialized equipment that is expensive to purchase, maintain and operate. A typical review includes visual inspection from the ground - with high-end binoculars, and physical inspection using a boom lift, scaffolding, or rope access. During the physical assessment, suspected areas of the building will be sounded with a hammer to define hollow areas and the severity of the damage.

In a traditional facade inspection, the findings of the final assessment are presented as a summary detailing each building's current conditions, along with recommendations for its betterment. Unfortunately, it's not as smooth as it may sound. It is time-consuming, costly and labour-intensive. Moreover, the results of manual facade inspection are inconsistent, depending on the inspector's expertise. Especially given the heat— traditional façade inspection of a 40-story tower is an absolute nightmare.

Unlike conventional facade inspection, drone-based facade inspections make the operations Safer, Efficient, Accurate, and way more Cost-effective. Moreover, the automated mode of operation and the ability for real-time monitoring make it even more flexible and efficient.

Drone-based Facade Inspection with FEDS

With a drone, it's a simple act of swapping payloads! With drones, what generally took months, is now possible in a matter of a few days, with more reliability, precision and efficiency. For example, the FEDS team performed a facade Inspection in downtown Dubai. The mission was to digitally reproduce the entire building's facade to cross-check whether all the apartments were sound and safe.

The mission area was huge; it had three zones comprising 33 buildings (the tallest building in the mission area was 280 metres tall). A traditional facade inspection would have been incredibly challenging in this scenario - it is difficult to see and capture data from the ground; likewise, some of the building zones would have been difficult to assess either from eye level or from the roof.

Based on the height and the number of buildings per zone, the FEDS inspection team divided themselves into groups. With one of the best drones in the market - the DJI M300 RTK paired with a powerful thermal sensor - DJI Zenmuse H2OT; the drone operators captured the data of the assigned buildings in a matter of minutes - depending on the height. Team FEDS completed the on-site inspection within six days and submitted the final report in another six days. The drone-based facade inspections enabled the client to view, evaluate, and make better-informed decisions regarding their properties.

The deliverables of the mission included:
  • HD visual data of building facades
  • HD geotagged inspection asset imagery
  • 3D building point cloud model
  • Infrared Scanning for Moisture and Water Infiltration
  • Historic Preservation Mapping and Modeling
  • Facade assessment summary for individual buildings
  • Comprehensive facade inspection portfolio

FEDS provided an inspection report containing all the issues along with their location coordinates, allowing us to track each issue quickly. Likewise, the inspectors could readily share the results with all stakeholders too.
No more safety concerns; drones can just fly around and capture high-resolution images and videos. Besides identifying structural deterioration, faults and flaws, drone data can also be used to record historical information, produce 3D point clouds, create comprehensive building-compliance documents, and much more. Drones paired with infrared sensors detect instances of water infiltration and also help us have a clearer picture of hidden structural elements.

Regarding Facade Inspections, we at FEDS focus on the facade assessment, documentation, and quantification of errors found. Our clients use the results to work on budgeting, phasing, and scheduling repair/maintenance work.

Are you looking forward to examining the integrity of your buildings? It's time to work together - get in touch with us.


About the author

Maria Thomas


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