Industrial Drone Services

Transmission & Distribution Asset Inspection

The power grid in the United States is generally comprised of generation, transmission and distribution for public and private use. Generation is comprised of hydroelectric, solar, wind turbines, geothermal, biomass and fuel based steam generation power plants. From there the power is sent to substations and then to transmission and distribution lines. A major issue confronting the utility companies is the aging of the assets with a large percentage of transmission lines, structures and transformers being well over 30 years in age. A continuous effort is underway to maintain and modernize assets.

Working in close proximity to high voltage and at heights is hazardous. Ground navigation to poles or structures in difficult or distant terrain can cause damage to vehicles, personal injury and in rare instances, loss of life. In certain locations the only way to inspect poles or structures is with Human External Cargo (HEC) which is a high-risk endeavor for the line persons and helicopter pilots.

In most instances drones are able to simply fly to a pole or structure and take high resolution imagery (stills or video) providing complete photographic coverage of a pole or structure from all angles. Experience has shown that the cost to have a drone inspect a pole or structure is at minimum 50% less than a climbing visual inspection thus providing an excellent ROI. A simple ground only photographic inspection will not reveal all components or overhead views necessary for a complete inspection. Linear photographic inspections by helicopters cost thousands of dollars an hour in helicopter operation costs with the associated limitation of inability to capture imagery of crucial components underneath the helicopter’s vantage point. This is in addition to potential liability for high-risk, low level helicopter operations in close proximity to terrain and obstacles.

Inspection and Inventory

The aerial imagery capture of a pole or structure is preplanned and generally involves an aerial circular rotation around a pole or structure at different levels and camera angles with photographic overlap of sectors to ensure complete and clearly focused and exposed photographic coverage. The photographic coverage should include all hardware components, equipment, insulators, conductors and the overall condition of the structure itself. While at asset locations, care should be taken not to disturb wildlife or create any type of environmental impact.

Oftentimes poles or structures are tagged with erroneous identification markings, are missing tags or have inaccurate GPS coordinates. In some cases an asset isn’t on a utility company’s list of assets. In a few rare circumstances a pole or structure is simply not where a utility company thinks it is (eg “ghost structure”).

Drones are capable of providing accurate GPS coordinates which is recorded within the metadata of the imagery provided to the client or customer. Obvious significant defects or integrity problems of an asset can be reported immediately from the field for the prompt generation of a work order and remediation of the issue.

Oil, Gas & Derivatives

The oil and gas industry has unique needs and challenges and the utilization of drones as a tool in their toolbox creates previously unavailable options.

Industry leaders have demonstrated the efficacy of drone inspections in oil and gas production and pipeline transport including the inspection of exterior and the confined spaces of collection and pressure vessels. One undeniable benefit of drones is the inspection of flare stacks without the significant cost and human risk associated with a flare stack shut down and physical inspection.

The complexity, engineered density and formidable size and heights of refineries and the hazardous conditions they can create make drones well suited for inspection purposes and the mitigation of risk.

Another excellent use of drones involves the inspection of offshore oil and gas platforms. Seasonal and adverse weather and sea conditions along with the compact nature and inaccessible areas common with these structures requires efficient, safe and cost effective inspections. Structural and cosmetic corrosion and protective coating deterioration from airborne moisture containing salt requires constant attention from the waterline to the top of the structure. Submersible drones for underwater inspections are also an option depending on currents, ambient temperatures and underwater visibility.

Methane gas is a known and significant harmful greenhouse gas. It is argued that the oil and gas industry is responsible for a large amount of global methane emissions. The regulations on methane emissions are seemingly in constant flux. Using drones for inspection and methane leak detection at numerous and dispersed oil and gas well pad sites offers a superior ROI and is a preferred method over the painstaking ground approach through public and private property.

There are dozens of methane detection methods presently available. OGI imagery is a common method with aerial LiDAR most recently being utilized by industry leaders. Modern LiDAR methane sensors are able to cover large swaths of territory from altitude thereby covering larger subject areas more quickly and efficiently.

In the unfortunate event of an accident or the necessity of documenting a crucial engineering undertaking, drones can live stream video of an event anywhere in the world.


The use of drones by local, municipal, state and federal governmental agencies for the inspection of non-private infrastructure has grown exponentially over the past few years. Drones mitigate the human risks associated with working at heights, over water, terrain, highways and the human traversing of inhospitable terrain or water. There is an excellent ROI as tasks are performed more quickly and efficiently by utilizing drones.

One of the more valuable uses for drones is the inspection of bridges with their varying sizes and engineering designs. Some well known designs are beam bridges, truss bridges, cantilever bridges, arch bridges, tied arch bridges, cable stayed bridges and suspension bridges (Golden Gate Bridge). The physical manned inspection process of bridges can be arduous and time consuming for many bridges due to their size, construction and elevation over terrain, roadways, bodies of water and waterways. There are some points of inspection that drones are capable of inspecting that are otherwise impossible to inspect without additional measures such as below deck scaffolding, safety harnesses and climbing gear. One drone team or a number of drone teams are able to visually capture large areas of a bridge structure in a safe and efficient manner including base or pile structures, the highest support points and the underside of the deck or movement corridor.

Other drone applications include the inspection of reservoirs, dams and spillways for spalling, cracks, movement, seepage, sediment changes and engineering assessments. Waste and water storage containment vessels and intake and diversion equipment can be inspected for corrosion, leakage and overall condition.

The types of sensors or cameras used for drone inspections would be dependent on the engineering, survey or maintenance needs of a customer. Some of the common sensors utilized capture high resolution RGB stills or video, infrared imaging, methane measuring (OGI) or LiDAR mapping with RGB overlay.

Cellular Towers & Sites

Cellular towers and cellular sites from an engineering and aerial visualization standpoint, are more complex than other types of non-private infrastructure. Typically larger cellular sites can have hundreds of components, dense directional wiring and in some cases dedicated generators. Cellular sites are commonly co-located with other easement holders on private and public land. Tower climbers or personnel in lifts working at heights will be not dispensable asset inspectors in the near future. Nonetheless, drone inspections can reduce the frequency of manned physical inspections and are a valuable tool in the provider’s tool box. Drones thereby mitigate risk, are more efficient than traditional visual inspection methods and provide the added benefit of increasing ROI. Drones have the ability to provide high resolution RGB stills, video and 3D modeling for baseline or legacy imagery and thereafter imagery throughout the service life of the asset.

Cellular towers are oftentimes in difficult or distant terrain. Physical access to tower locations is not always guaranteed. The utilization of drones helps to alleviate access issues. If a cellular site goes down after a forest fire or other calamity, drone operators can be dispatched to determine if it is a service fix or complete destruction of the structure thereby preserving man hours and resources. Drones are more likely to obtain access to denied and inhospitable ground areas.

Capital Projects & Assets

The efficacy of drones in the construction, development and real estate industries has been well documented. From undeveloped land to survey to project completion, a drone’s high resolution video and still imagery can keep project managers and stakeholders continually appraised of a project’s progress. In the event the project is built for sale, the final imagery can be used for marketing and sales. Companies and consortiums with asset portfolios can gather imagery of assets to populate websites and provide those images to banks, investors and real estate professionals in the usual course of business.

During the course of a project, aerial imagery is a valuable tool to help project managers, foremen, subcontractors and trade-persons keep track of job site progress. Other advantages are ascertaining the idle volume of building materials and their locations, fill and excavation soil management, rain runoff issues, suitable ingress and egress for trucks, cranes and equipment and the identification of logistic problems and remedies. Above all, drone imagery can help identify hazardous conditions and create a safe working environment.

Disaster Recovery & Insurance Claims

Few things are as important as the provision of contemporaneous high definition, low level aerial imagery and mapping to the Incident Command Post or Incident Commander for the purposes of preservation of life and property after a disaster or public calamity. The imagery allows for recovery planning, damage assessment and mitigation though the integration of resources utilizing common communication methods.

A thorough understanding of FEMA’s Incident Command System’s (ICS) protocols and procedures is necessary so that responding drone operators know what to expect and how to avoid hindering the objectives of the recovery effort. There are a myriad of persons, agencies, jurisdictions, utility workers and air assets jointly involved in disaster recovery and only Incident Command personnel can provide the necessary coordination, situational awareness and dispatch instructions to the participating parties for a effective recovery effort.

Insurers and joint insurers need to rapidly assess claims and liabilities to minimize covered losses. Imagery collected by drones document claim files and justify the payment of claims.