Pitfalls of Traditional Asset Inspection Methods

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Pitfalls of Traditional Asset Inspection Methods

In the recent past, if you wanted to inspect powerlines, you only had one of two ways to go about it. Ground teams & crewed aircraft—and neither are without their drawbacks. With drones, we now have a valid third and better option. But before we explore drones, let’s take a look at the traditional methods and understand why the shift to drones - aerial inspection is almost necessary.
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Ground patrols

Sending out ground teams is the most prevalent method of powerline inspection, and that is inopportune. Their biggest advantage is the low price, but this low price comes at a larger cost.

Slow

Ground patrols are severely limited by their mobility. This is only further restricted by inaccessible terrain. Inspectors often have to traverse large distances by foot, stopping only to take readings. This pace is incredibly slow compared to drones or crewed aircraft. Depending on the distances between towers, a ground crew could average anywhere between 3 to 7 towers in a day.

Resource-hungry

The teams are supported by a number of auxiliary equipment or staff, all of which cost money to maintain and develop. Say you want to speed up the inspections, you are left with no other choice than to increase the manpower. When ground teams are involved, you’re also looking at fleets of cars and trucks, PPE equipment, specialised sensors and tools.

Dangerous

When you put humans in remote locations; in treacherous terrains; in close proximity to high voltage lines; & dizzying heights— You have an operation with an incredible number of hazards attached to it. Other than PPE kits and robust mitigation systems in place, the inspectors have no other method of reducing or eliminating the hazards.

Downtime

Ground patrols can only observe so much from their eye-level vantage point. If they need a closer look by scaling up the tower, then the entire line would have to be shut down to make it safe enough to do so. Couple this with the slow pace of ground based inspections and you’re left with increased downtime.

Limited Visibility

Visibility is key during inspections. If an asset hasn’t been inspected thoroughly; there is  a good chance that a potentially catastrophic fault may have been missed. The data captured from eye-level only provides so much visibility. To capture better data, inspectors would need to take a closer look at the aspects.

Inaccurate

Unfortunately— humans make mistakes. and often find it hard to collect consistent data. This could lead to faults being missed or even mislabeled, which can end in disaster. The lack of consistency in data collection also rules out any potential automated data processing or AI integration.

Crewed Helicoptors

Speed is about the only benefit that helicoptors have going for them. While they introduce speed, aircrafts can often cause more problems than they solve.

Cost

The most glaring downside to using helicoptors is their cost. The average cost of renting a helicopter is more than 4,000 USD per day, and this does not include fuel, manpower, or equipment. This quickly drives up the price of these inspections.

Distance to Airport

While your required inspection distance may just be 15 km or less, you would also have to factor in the distance to the nearest airport. Oftentimes, powerlines span across remote areas, making the travel distance from airport to powerline even greater than the inspection distance.

Limited Top-down View

The cost associated with crewed aircraft inspection could be balanced if the resulting data were to be impeccable. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The sensors attached to aircrafts can only capture data from their fixed position as the aircraft flies over on top of the assets. This lack of visibility is not conducive to inspections and often results in a secondary ground team being dispatched to take a closer look.

Hazardous

Crewed helicopter missions face serious dangers on their inspection missions. The quality of data typically captured is significantly inferior to drones, but, even to capture that, the helicopter must fly at lower altitudes. In mountainous regions, the pilot must battle high wind speeds and visibility reduced by dust and even rain.

Carbon Footprint

Aircraft fuel is expensive and its cost contributes significantly to your carbon footprint. Newer aircraft are fitted with engines that do cut down on the carbon dioxide that they release, but these aircrafts are not widely available and are more expensive. Regardless, reducing CO2 emissions by 30% still contributes 70% to unsustainable practices.


What Is the Alternative?

To find out how drones address these challenges and outshine the traditional methods; read our article - Drone-powered powerline Inspections. Or, if you’re interested in seeing drones in action, get in touch with us to schedule a cost-free demo.
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About the author

Niiveth Mani
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