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Watch out for these common mistakes when conducting drone inspections

Drone inspections are an integral part of all architectural, engineering or construction (AEC) projects. You can find drones everywhere, from single-storey residential projects to multi-million dollar high-rise commercial construction projects.

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However, the drone inspection is only as good as the operator controlling the machine. The simplest mistake can cost you and your client additional time, money and potentially more. 

If you plan to hire drone services in Melbourne, ensure that you ask them the right questions. Here are some common drone inspection mistakes that your drone operator must avoid at all costs: 

Poor project planning

An inexperienced drone operator might not address some fundamental project planning for the project. Usually, when you hire a drone service operator, they will conduct a site visit to inspect the location, assess risks and confirm the job scope

Based on the insights they gather, the company will determine the job methodology and decide the best inspection techniques and equipment to meet the project needs. You can also expect a drone inspection cost estimate from your drone services provider. Part of this process is to complete the job project planning and includes job risk assessment, flight planning, job safety assessment and SWMS. 

Gathering an incorrect job scope or not conducting a site assessment would be a huge red flag that AEC professionals must look out for.  

If the drone services company submits a bid without a comprehensive job assessment and site visit, it increases the risk of expensive and potentially risky incidents once the project is underway. Without understanding the job scope, risks and complexities, you wouldn’t have a contingency plan to deal with emergent risks or incidents. 

At Avian, we conduct a comprehensive job and site assessment and site visit to gauge the scope, scale and complexity of the project. These insights also factor in when we determine the inspection equipment, methodology and workforce needed for the project.

Not checking the weather conditions

The weather in Australia is pretty unpredictable. You can see clear sunny days, cloudy skies, sporadic rainfalls all within the span of a couple of days. 

According to CASA drone flight regulations, drone operators should not fly their drones in the rain. This is because cloudy skies hamper visibility and can also damage the drone equipment. Plus the quality of the drone images is impacted by rain, fog, haze and dust therefore affecting the quality of the inspection. 

An experienced drone operator checks the weather report many times in advance to ensure that the weather is optimal even right up to hours before the job starts. 

This is especially important with inspection operations as even a light breeze can cause problems with close proximity to structures.

Limited access to site data  

One of the biggest challenges that AEC professionals face on-site is site inspection and project tracking data. 

Often, project managers and engineers have to inspect the worksite manually. Using our drones, software and equipment automates this inspection process, and you can check the project, asset and project site from the comfort of your office. 

Drones make it easier for engineers, located off site, to access important site data and information whenever it is needed. 

In an ideal situation, there should be no gaps between data collection and data accessibility. Everyone on the project team gets access to the project data in real-time

Its important to note that data is not limited to site measurements and volumes. It can include anything from design plans, worksite productivity, asset management, site measurements etc. 

An inexperienced operator might not be as familiar with engineering or construction surveys and inspections. Moreover, most drone companies help with drone photography or data collection, and they cannot help you process drone data and generate valuable engineering or inspection reports. 

At Avian, we keep a transparent reporting system where the client can access site data on the go. We have a cloud based solution you can access and share your data within your project teams from any internet connection. Our team have experience in creative, survey, geospatial and technical disciplines who convert 2D drone images into 3D models, maps and 3D visualisations in whatever file formats you require.

Not tracking progress or change properly

Tracking progress or change on a project is more involved than just taking a few photographs. An accurate and transparent change detection report would give you tangible insights into the building or asset condition, and it is one of the most effective ways to check if your maintenance is on schedule.

The insights you gather from adequate reporting helps engineers and management to make crucial decisions about the future course of action. This includes activities such as: urgent repairs and maintenance, further investigation works, budget management and planning future project schedules.   

A reliable drone inspection company will help you track change and monitor defects to allow your business to make smarter business decisions. With regular building condition inspections, you can build a holistic picture of the asset and track and monitor changes over time.

One of the biggest drone inspection mistakes that a client can make is not collecting data at regular intervals. It is imperative to track the condition and monitor defects at periodic intervals if you want valuable insights from the building inspection. 

At Avian Australia, we take it a step further. Our team doesn’t just help with analytics and detailed onsite data collection we also assist our clients with value added services to support other business objectives. We provide virtual inspection software for clients to efficiently inspect, measure, annotate and share valuable insights with projects teams and stakeholders.

Check out a video of this inspection software to support clients inspection objectives.

On-site accidents and injuries 

A drone inspection is a dangerous working environment where the simplest of aerial inspection mistakes can lead to horrifying accidents. These accidents don’t just hit your pocket but can be disastrous for people not involved, your business and the client’s reputation. 

And while it is nearly impossible to prevent every on-site risk, drones help improve worksite safety compared to manual inspections. Drones can access hard to reach places, saving workers from having to climb high towers or enter narrow pipelines. 

Talk to your drone operator to check if they have ample experience working in high-risk environments. I recommend requesting relevant references and also enquire about the required permits, risk and safety procedures, traffic and pedestrian management when considering drone inspection services. 

An inexperienced drone operator or company might be incapable of handling the high-risk drone operations at the worksite. For instance, the operator might lose control of the drone once it’s close to the structure, inside a narrow section or high up on a building facade. This can lead to drone crashes, damage to valuable assets and even severe injuries. In many instances, local roads are a high risk for a drone incident and adequate risk planning and operational precautions should be taken by the drone inspection company to mitigate any potential risks.

At Avian, we follow a strict risk management policy including industry-leading safe work methods to ensure our operations are conducted in the safest possible way. We include pedestrian and traffic management plans for ensure public safety and adequate buffer zones are created for inspection tasks. Our comprehensive insurance covers commercial drone operations and our clients assets to provide security and peace of mind for our inspection operations.

Drone malfunction

Drone malfunctions are responsible for more number of drone inspection mistakes than you might think. And in my experience, these malfunctions often happen due to two main reasons: 

  • Human factors such as human error, fatigue, lapse in concentration, overwhelmed etc.  
  • External factors such as wind, rain, loss of radio signal etc. 

A competent drone operator can avoid both these factors with a bit of foresight and adequate planning. As I’ve covered earlier, a competent drone services provider should have a comprehensive suite of pre-flight processes, risk assessments and equipment maintenance schedules to plan and mitigate risks well in advance. 

And to avoid technical malfunctions, ensure that your drone services company thoroughly check the drone before every flight. Including following a maintenance schedule and operational record of every drone mission to ensure proper equipment maintenance is undertaken.

Following is a video taken by our CASA certified drone experts to test drone stability on a windy day in Melbourne.

Talk to your drone service provider about the kind of experience they have in the AEC industry. Experience with AEC sites and asset inspection projects, does help a lot in preventing incidents or reducing errors on the site. Not only can these things be avoided but in the event of an incident the potential damage and risk is greatly reduced to avoid serious damage or injury. 

At Avian, we have land surveyors, drone operators, building inspectors and engineers on board with years of experience working with 100+ clients, who can provide specialised, data-driven solutions to help you deliver expected outcomes and realise tangible benefits. 

If you have any queries regarding your next drone inspection project, please feel free to book a no-obligation consultation with us and we will walk you through the whole process of executing a drone inspection with confidence, reliability and peace of mind.