There is a huge opportunity for drone pilots to make a lot of money in industries such as risk management, commercial and residential inspection, 3D model rendering, search and rescue and environmental research. The reason the opportunity is available is because of the huge cost. It costs a lot of money to send a pilot up in a helicopter or airplane to inspect or to search for someone. The cost becomes exponential when the pilot’s life is threatened as well.
Drone pilots offer a valuable service because it allows the pilot and/or the inspector to focus on the job rather than have to multitask thinking about their own safety equipment, personal safety as well as not missing important information during the inspection or search and rescue.
Industries like gas, oil, communications and utilities all have facilities that must be inspected on a regular basis. These inspections can be expensive and are dangerous jobs for the men and women who do them. In fact, cell tower inspectors have been identified as having the most dangerous jobs in America. Inspectors for gas and oil facilities are often put in dangerous environments such as extreme heat and strong winds. For example, oil rig inspectors must dangle from a wire, and manually log wear and tear all the while maintaining their own safety while being blown about in gale-force winds. Assessments also need to be made on flare stacks that can cost upwards of a million dollars to shut down for a day during inspections. These inspectors have a lot of stress placed on their shoulders because of the cost of not only to their safety but also the bottom-line of the business.
Companies like Sky Futures, Cyberhawk, PrecisionHawk and SenseFly are all paving the way for companies to maintain production while maintaining a safe working environment. But drones – with their ability to hover and stay relatively steady – can do much of this work, which means reduced health and safety risks, reduced time taken to conduct inspections and reduced costs. Rather than eliminating the need for all human drone inspections can serve as the front-line data gathering point “in order to decide where further maintenance and manned inspection work must be carried out” Businesses save money by only shutting down during repairs rather than during both the inspection and the repair.
Consider oil rig maintenance needs:
“These are large metal structures in a big pond of seawater. They will rust a lot, particularly in the North Sea where rigs designed to last 20 years are lasting more than 40. They are continually getting cracks and physical damage from the waves and need to be refurbished and fixed,” says Chris Blackford, Sky Futures’ chief operations officer. – Bloomberg
The data that the inspectors get from drones can analyzed quickly which not only saves money but also will allow time to do more inspections in less time than traditional inspections with humans.
“What we can capture in five days using a drone could take eight weeks with human inspectors,” Blackford says. “We can even inspect the flare stacks while in production, which saves money.” Avoiding a shutdown can save more than $4 million, the company says.
Once the data is captured, it’s analyzed using proprietary algorithms and presented through an online portal, instead of a traditional paper report. Each flaw is flagged in red, amber or green, based on urgency. Thanks to lasers, Sky Futures’ drones can track cracks and corrosion and map how they evolve over time. They can even sniff for gas leaks. – Bloomberg
Drone inspections also help maintain environmental integrity and the safety of the inspectors.
North Carolina-based PrecisionHawk has served the oil and gas industry by mapping the ice roads across remote areas of Alaska. In the past, coming within five miles of a polar bear den would have meant the replanning of routes at a cost of millions of dollars to avoid the animals. PrecisionHawk’s drones can identify the dens in advance. –Bloomberg
As you read your mind is exploding is ideas and even new industries that I haven’t covered that could use drones to keep costs down. Let us know below in the comments other industries that I haven’t covered would benefit from drones. Also to get an idea of what companies are looking for visit Sky Futures career page.
Resources used for Article:
- SuasNEWS: Drone Company Claims First Legal Gulf of Mexico Inspection Flights
- Bloomberg: Flying Robots Replace Oil Roughnecks
- Rig Zone: Drone Alone: Unmanned Aircraft in Oil, Gas Inspection
- Sky Futures Careers
- OSHA – Communication Towers
- Micro Aerial Projects: UAV Cell Phone Tower Inspections anywhere in the world