Drones In Facility Maintenance: Foolish Or The Future?

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On March 31, 2016, Posted by , In Technology, With Comments Off on Drones In Facility Maintenance: Foolish Or The Future?

It’s happening: although drones are currently only legally allowed for personal use, new regulations are being developed so they can be used commercially. When that happens, you can be sure to see them applied in a facilities maintenance capacity.

This article thinks facilities managers should start adding ‘drone pilot’ skills to their resume. It argues drones do a better job of surveying retail facilities than an engineer physically inspecting those spaces, particularly rooftops. There’s good reason to be skeptical right now, and we’re right there with you. We can think of four reasons off the top of our heads why drones taking over inspection rounds is a bad idea.

The Drawback to Drones

Drones don’t know the details

Drones will never have the comprehensive insight to all the signs and signals of a properly operating or failing system as an experienced facilities professional will. Using them to scan buildings is like asking someone off the street to go up to your roof and take photos. What they bring back might unveil some of the more obvious issues, but it’s not the same as a professional using all their senses, in 360°. The drone’s imaging system may pick up on leaks and debris, but  until an engineer checks it out ,you can’t really be sure if it’s benign or if it’s a sign of something much bigger. You always need to get a trained human in front of this equipment to notice the small details, and have a chance to prevent any issues.

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Your new inspection plan?

Drones require special conditions

The concept of drones being used for facilities management is based on its ability to scan hard-to-reach places like smokestacks, chimneys and antennae using infrared technology. With an infrared camera, drones can provide thermographic images to detect things like potential or existing roof leaks.

However, their ability is easily compromised in poor weather conditions like rain or strong wind. The accuracy of their readings can also be affected when they fly close to large metal objects. Trying to run an inspection on a cloudy day? Good luck getting a clear picture of the health of your buildings – literally.

Drones are an investment to only get half the work done

According to Facilities Net, launching a base drone costs a minimum of $1,000. Add any special services like infrared imaging and you’re looking at much, much more than that, quickly.

Not only do drones cost significant money, but they’re also complicated pieces of equipment that will take a lot of learning to understand how to use them for inspections. Although using drones means not having two maintenance workers up on a roof to initially see a problem, it will mean having two operators on the ground managing the drone’s path and analyzing the data it reports back. If the drone detects a problem, it’s not actually equipped to solve it. Your maintenance workers will still have to get on the roof to fix the issue.

Drones make people uncomfortable

When tenants see an engineer walking and inspecting their building, they get a sense of confidence that things are running smoothly and they’re being taken care of. When they see a drone with a camera flying overhead, they feel like they’re being spied on.

Drones are off-putting and may make people feel like they’re being watched by Big Brother. The last thing you want is for people to no longer feel comfortable being around your property because they fear someone is watching their every step.

At the end of the day, well-trained operations and maintenance professionals are always better than any technological gimmick. We designed our product to support their work, not replace it.

With LogCheck, you’re keeping inspections in your experts’ hands while digitizing their work to make data entry quicker and more accurate, and trend discovery easier. Click here to sign up for a trial and see how LogCheck brings technology into facilities management, the right way.

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