Drone Mapping Improves Inspections and Identifies Hazards on Industrial Worksites
Workplace injuries and illnesses cost employers in the US almost $1 billion per week in worker’s compensation costs alone, according to OSHA estimates. This estimate doesn’t include the additional costs that result from lost productivity, staffing replacements and repairs to damaged equipment. Looking for a better way to inspect jobsites and identify potential hazards before they become dangerous, companies are increasingly turning to drone mapping to improve safety at industrial worksites.
“Everything’s about safety in our industry,” says Chris Bartlett of ReconnTECH, the technology solutions branch of major field inspection company USIC. He uses drone mapping to help clients remotely inspect elevated water and cell towers. “Introducing drones increases safety in the workforce by giving our customers tools to perform inspections in a safer manner.”
Here are a some of the ways everyone from construction companies to landfill managers are using drones to improve safety on their jobsites.
“Everything’s about safety in our industry. Introducing drones increases safety in the workforce by giving our customers tools to perform inspections in a safer manner.” — Chris Bartlett, ReconnTECH
Drones Track Progress and Forecast Potential Jobsite Risks
When it comes to industrial worksites, identifying potential concerns early helps minimize safety risks and enables managers to contain environmental hazards before they become costly and dangerous.
Dale Parrish of Hover Visions created a high-resolution drone map each week during construction of an oil storage facility in Cushing, Oklahoma. Project managers and site engineers used the maps to monitor earthwork on safety dykes meant to contain spillage in the event of a leak. By reducing the need for PMs to spend hours walking the site, these real-time overviews allowed them to monitor progress more often and more thoroughly. They were now armed with comprehensive information to help identify and forecast potential jobsite issues early.
Dale Parrish used drone mapping to improve communication and oversight at an oil storage facility in Cushing, Oklahoma.
Andrew Dennison, COO of Uplift Data Partners, specializes in using drone mapping with the construction industry. He agrees that maps and 3D models improve project communications and increase oversight both onsite and off.
Outside of the construction industry, civil engineer Ed Schmalfeld of Dragonfly AeroSolutions uses drone mapping to conduct monthly safety inspections of landfills. These inspections pinpoint potential hazards such as leaking gasses and site erosion, allowing landfill managers to address concerns before they become dangerous.
Civil engineer Edward Schmalfeld uses drone mapping to conduct monthly safety inspections of landfills.
Aerial Imagery Reduces Need for Walking in Dangerous Areas
As any site manager is all too aware, most industrial accidents are the result not of falling debris or malfunctioning equipment, but of slips, trips and falls. In fact, falls are the leading cause of death on industrial jobsites and were responsible for eight hundred OSHA-reported fatalities in 2015. By allowing crews to perform remote inspections with real-time information, drone mapping reduces the need to put boots on the ground in potentially dangerous areas.
When Chris Bartlett of ReconnTECH uses drones to help clients inspect elevated cell towers, he knows the stakes are high. Tower climbing consistently ranks as one of the most dangerous jobs. In fact, with an average of seven climbers killed each year, the annual death rate for cell tower inspection is ten times that of construction work. With drone mapping, crews can now use high-resolution maps to conduct initial inspections remotely. They need only climb towers that require repair or show signs of concern. Says Chris, “If we can reduce the number of climbs required and only send someone up for a repair as opposed to inspection then we can immediately have an impact on safety on the cell site.”
Ed Schmalfeld of Dragonfly AeroSolutions agrees. As a former landfill manager himself, he is all too aware of the dangers that steep, uneven slopes present. Traversing landfills for inspections is one of the most dangerous tasks that landfill personnel face, with many sites spanning several hundred acres and inspections lasting days or even weeks. During these inspections, managers must navigate difficult topography and interact with heavy equipment, sometimes hundreds of garbage trucks, and environmental hazards like fire ants and black widows. By utilizing drones, he is effectively reducing a site manager’s need to inspect by foot to only a select number of areas.
“I firmly believe that the use of drones is preventing unneeded injuries and potentially saving lives,” — Ed Schmalfeld, drone service provider and former landfill manager
Map of debris from airplane crash. Measurements and annotations show estimated angle of plane when it struck the ground.
Drone Mapping Helps with Accident Investigations
We all hope jobsite accidents never happen, but the fact is, they sometimes do. And when they do, it is important to get the most accurate picture of the events. Eyewitness accounts don’t always reveal the entire story, but drones can be used to gather a more complete reading of what actually took place.
Jeremy Reynolds of RTI Forensics uses drone mapping to create 3D models that help him when he investigates aviation, rail, marine and utility accidents.
“When there’s been an accident of some kind, whether a failure of a piece of equipment or a building that has collapsed or an aircraft has crashed, we need to capture the scene exactly the way it is before anybody comes in to clean it up,” — Jeremy Reynolds, RTI Forensics
The maps and 3D models Jeremy produces using DroneDeploy preserve the evidence long after the actual debris is cleaned up. He is then able to integrate the drone mapping data into industry software so accident experts and engineers can use it to make measurements and run computer-simulated scenarios. This is particularly useful when assessing fault for insurance claims, as well as potentially reducing court fees and worker’s compensation litigation.
Virtual Reality: The Future of Worksite Safety Inspections
The full potential of drone mapping is only just beginning to be realized, and companies like construction giant Brasfield & Gorrie are leading the way with innovations in the field. They have been experimenting with the use of virtual reality, in conjunction with DroneDeploy’s mapping software, to create immediate, virtual representations of construction sites.
Recently, their virtual design and construction team gave hospital staff a virtual tour of a facility only weeks after construction started. This allowed staff to fully experience the space to a high degree of detail, ultimately resulting in greater feedback on issues such as location of medical gas outlets and equipment placement. Early input allowed Brasfield & Gorrie to make necessary changes that will ultimately create a better, and also safer, workplace.
Brasfield & Gorrie VDC professionals give a virtual tour of a job site from their headquarters
“Virtual reality provides us with the ability to seamlessly integrate new technologies with various construction operations, improve jobsite safety, and increase the information available to key stakeholders. Our project and safety teams can now complete walkthroughs remotely — increasing safety and awareness without ever having to step on site.”—Russell Byrd, Virtual Design + Construction Coordinator at Brasfield & Gorrie
Where to Learn More
To learn more about how drones are being used to improve project coordination on construction sites, tune into our webinar series featuring Ryan Moret, Field Solutions Manager at McCarthy Building Companies and David Benowitz from DJI Enterprise.
Get Started with DroneDeploy
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