Choosing a UAV Inspection Provider

8 Things you Should Look Out For
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26 August 2021

Drones have been the hottest ticket in town for a while now, but historically speaking, that interest was largely consigned to personal use and not commercial. Despite that, during the same period, Cyberhawk bustled and innovated their way to their title as one of biggest drone inspection companies in the world by offering gold standard service at scale, anywhere in the world.

Fast forward to today where drone technology is no longer just a toy for tech enthusiasts, but is now being commercialized across multiple industries – not just inspection.

And while anyone appreciates genuine innovation and entrepreneurship, it can bring with it a lack of experience and sometimes a misunderstanding of the task at hand.

That’s why, in today’s blog, we’re going to highlight 8 things you should look out for when choosing a UAV inspection provider.

1. A Drone Photography Company is Not the Same as an Inspection Company that Specializes in Drones

A drone photography company can offer fantastic ways to take aerial photographs - great to take a picture of your house or dramatic scenery. This is separate to a UAV inspection company, who will fly close to a structure and take images that allow a detailed assessment to be made on the condition of a structure, typically to a CVI (close visual inspection) standard. To make critical engineering decisions, you need the latter.

An inspection company who specialise in drone usage will utilise a two-person team: An experienced pilot controlling the position of the drone in the air and an inspection engineer with relevant inspection qualifications and experience, looking at a live video feed, controlling the camera to take the required images.

2. Complex Inspections Demand More than a CAA/FAA Pilot License

Having a CAA/FAA drone pilot license doesn’t mean the pilot can complete complex industrial inspections - you don’t gain much experience on a three-day classroom course.

Flying a drone in a low-pressure environment to take a photo of the countryside is significantly simpler than flying above angry waters and torrential winds offshore or close to dangerous high-voltage powerlines. Specific training and experience is required for complex industrial inspections and the pilot must be able to fly the drone fully manually without its flight assist features such as GPS positioning.

Furthermore, pilots must maintain their skills. Flying a drone once every few months will not mean you are competent enough to complete complex work scopes. Look for a company that operates in multiple industries and geographies so you know their pilot skills are well maintained.

3. Make Sure your Inspector is Qualified and has Industry Knowledge

There is no point in someone carrying out a structural inspection if they don’t know what they’re looking at. Make sure either an engineer or qualified inspector is on site as part of the inspection team and that they understand the structure being inspected. In the worst case scenario, an inspection might have to take place again if something is missed – at cost to you.

4. You Want Images, Not Video (Most of the Time)

Most companies do not have the skill set to capture high detail photographs of the right areas and gather video from far away instead. It is much easier to do and requires no specialist knowledge. Somebody then has the unenviable task of reviewing the footage and trying to extract some sort of useful data. This takes 10 times as long to report and the video screen grabs are never as good as full resolution still images.

5. The Report is King

For all clients, the most important thing is the report. Drones collect a huge volume of data and the resulting barrage of raw images can be overwhelming when you don’t know what to look for.

Here are a few things we prioritize in a quality report:

• Are images of a standard where you can make an assessment on the condition of the structure?
• Are the major defects identified, described and prioritized so you can quickly understand where to focus contact NDT or repairs?
• Is it clear where defects are located so they can be rectified?

Ask to see previous reports – those will give you a fair idea as to whether the provider can complete the scope of work to the standard you require.

Offline reports are good, but in the present age of advanced analytics and cloud software, tracking your asset’s condition usually needs more than that. Experienced and innovative UAV companies can provide cloud based visual asset management software that stores and analyses the terabytes of data collected from drones, making reports easy to access and interpret.

6. Experience & Scale Matter

Make sure your supplier has done lots of similar projects before, has a relevant client list and good testimonials. For large enterprises, you also need a provider that can meet your requirements, your deadlines and can mobilise multiple teams and equipment, even internationally, if required.7. Complete an Aviation Audit & Understand Previous Incidents

Drones are flying aircraft. The best people in your organisation to understand if the drone is being operated safely is your aviation department. Send them out to do an audit - that will quickly establish if the potential vendor is serious about what they do, whether they’re safe, that they train their staff and have suitable procedures to be trusted on your sites.

Ask about previous incidents. All UAV operators will have experienced some sort of incident where they have crashed a drone. This is not necessarily a negative reflection on the company’s competence because as environments and work scopes change, inspections are becoming harder to complete and accidents are inevitable. What is important is that an operator is transparent about their incident rate, reporting and that the learnings from any incident strengthen the robustness of training and operating procedures.

8. Look for Certifications

It can be a minefield out there when you’re looking to hire a new company. Luckily, ISO certifications allow people to determine quickly whether a company is doing all that it can within certain areas. Below we’ve highlighted some key areas you should look for in a drone inspection company:

• ISO 9001: Organizations use the standard to demonstrate the ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements.
• ISO 14001: This certification is an internationally agreed standard that sets out the requirements for an environmental management system. It helps organizations improve their environmental performance through more efficient use of resources and reduction of waste.
• ISO 27001: This certification is an international standard on how to manage information security - the aim of which is to help organizations make the information assets they hold more secure.
• ISO 45001: This demonstrates a company’s commitment to their employees' health and well-being and to continuous safety improvement.

Get in Touch

If you would like to learn more about how Cyberhawk can help your inspection needs, you can do so here