By Barry Alexander
Although awareness of the safety solutions offered by unmanned aerial systems (UAS) – a.k.a. commercial drones— has recently spiked across the healthcare community due to the coronavirus crisis, perhaps one of the fastest growing uses of this burgeoning technology is within the civil and structural engineering industry. Not only can unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) be used for asset inspection and foundation repair on large scale construction sites, now a new breed of bots is able to monitor work-in-progress in all environments and across natural elements by moving on the land and swimming in the water. The advent of spherical, amphibious, and all-terrain drones has created a powerful complement to their airborne counterparts to achieve better business practices, streamline solutions, increase safety, and elevate profitability across the entire engineering field.
The key is in the cloud. Programming any type of drone hardware with customized capabilities enables it to collect, analyze, store, model, and share data in real time, thus giving engineers the ability to transform bots and UAVs into powerful, autonomous, AI-infused entities for complicated missions in surveillance, security, and detection. Using a cloud-based drone system also allows for remote deployment in all engineering field applications.Besides a variety of aerial drones with highly-specialized vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) functions, spherical drones offer total environmental protection and ultimate precision to the engineering profession by traversing all types of terrains, including paved roads, dirt paths, sand dunes, snowy fields, sloped mountains, and water surfaces. These radical bots can range from 6.5 inches to 7 feet in diameter and move fluidly in a forward and backward motion, as well as make 360-degree turns, reaching maximum speeds of 12 mph on land and 3 mph in water. Each one contains interchangeable sensors, such as video cameras, thermal, infrared, microphones, GPS, and audio for continuous content gathering, transmission of data and constant communication with command control. What’s more, they can operate up to 25 hours on only one charge.
Further, through cloud-based transmitters, land and sea drones will be able to deploy and communicate with their flying equivalents for a strong and seamless unmanned system (US) that works together in solving critical infrastructure challenges in a way that is more efficient, cost-effective and safer than traditional methods.
A comprehensive US can be applied to an array of activities within the engineering industry, including the following sectors:
Drones can be equipped with optical sensors to inspect equipment for potential pipeline leaks and pending points of failures, infrared sensors to examine equipment, and pipelines for heat signature anomalies, as well as normalized difference vegetative index (NDVI) sensors to evaluate plant life color differentials next to pipelines, which may cause possible leaks.
Similarly, autonomous drones outfitted with high resolution, optical, and infrared sensors are able to inspect dam walls for potential leaks, breaches, and pending points of failure, while being remotely deployed to monitor a dam’s perimeter, serving intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance (ISR) functions.
Distribution of single drones or drone swarms that include ground-based, amphibious, and aerial combinations can safely assess a ground situation after a disaster, enhance search and rescue operations of missing persons by utilizing photoelectric sensors that offer first-person view and heat signatures, and evaluate identify forest fire risk vectors using normalized difference vegetative index (NDVI) sensors.
Food, Fishing, & Agriculture
Single drone or drone swarms can scan farms to identify areas in need of irrigation, fertilization, or even under-utilized arable land. Use of amphibious drones outfitted with NDVI sensors extends the methodology to the fishing and oceanic industries. Drones can also be equipped with LiDAR sensors to perform geodesic analysis in the exploration of new areas suitable for farming. Drones use infrared sensors to identify the heat signature of livestock or fish to indicate whether any portion is ill, thus giving farmers and fisherman critical insights that could impact yield in meat, fish and dairy products. Similar drones are able to locate stray animals in the day or night and warn of nocturnal predators to protect livestock. Autonomous drones enhance farm perimeter security or can inspect a larger through the right edge computing network topology.
Industrial-grade drones are in constant demand by various branches of the military, especially the Army and Navy for safe ISR use cases. Autonomous drones coupled with strategically placed sensors and mobile command centers (MCCs), can routinely patrol popular border crossings. Since drone swarms and counter drone swarms are considered the future of warfare, the military has taken a keen interest in both the hardware that flies, rolls and swims for a universal and ubiquitous US system.
Commercial drones provide high resolution, optical inspections of industrial generators and power plant pipelines and alert potential breaches and pending points of failure. The technology can also check the efficacy of windmills, transmission lines, and solar panel surfaces. Autonomous drones loaded with infrared sensors can monitor the edge of nuclear plants using ISR functions.
Nuclear Reactors, Materials, & Waste
Drones offer high resolution, optical reviews of nuclear reactors for potential leaks and pending points of failures using infrared assessments of equipment and pipelines for heat signature irregularities. Autonomous drones equipped with augmented reality capabilities can survey the perimeter of nuclear plants using ISR functions.
Drones assist in all road, bridge, tunnel and mine evaluations, as well as the delivery of goods and supplies.
Water & Waste-Water Systems
Autonomous drones supplied with high resolution optical and infrared sensors can also be disseminated to monitor external boundary and internal surfaces of water management facilities using ISR functions.
In conclusion, drones – whether they be aerial, land-based or aquatic- are intelligent robots capable of performing humanlike functions to save lives and provide essential engineering services that better the entire industry by reducing costs, maximizing return on investment (ROI) and create new business value in a safe, responsible and eco-friendly manner.
Aquiline Drones is a progressive American drone company founded by highly experienced aviators, systems engineers and IT gurus. With a customer-centric model, US-based manufacturing and supply chain and world-class MRO services, the company offers innovative ways for using drones in commercial activities.
Supported by a dedicated UAV cloud and real-time OS, autonomous drone operations with real-time control and dynamic in-field decision making capabilities, Aquiline Drones’ full-spectrum of technology solutions provide a more expansive and deeper applicability across countless industries and environments by delivering real-time data insights. Aerospace-compliant processes for software, hardware manufacturing and systems integration, along with best-in-class mission capabilities are being planned and designed as the company continues to forge relationships with Federal, State and private organizations in an effort to develop and launch new drone system applications in a collaborative manner. Visit www.AquilineDrones.com for more information.
Barry Alexander is an experienced airline pilot, who recognized the need for an aviation-inspired operating system to take commercial drone functionality to the next level and thus created Aquiline Drones (AD), the first U.S.-based, comprehensive drone solutions company.