How Drones are Improving Safety and Saving Lives
Drones are making headlines by killing terrorist chiefs and delivering pizza, but, behind the drama of the mainstream news, they are making the world safer.
Many Industries Need More Effective, More Efficient and Safer Ways of Inspecting Equipment
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UVA) are enabling safety inspections of many hard-to-reach and remote facilities. This not only cuts costs, it reduces risk to human inspectors. It therefore enables more, and more effective, inspections to catch potential safety problems before they turn dangerous.
The applications include inspecting bridges, cell phone towers, home roofs and chimneys, agricultural spray equipment, telephone lines, power lines, embankment dams, drilling sites, enclosed areas, industrial towers, power plants, pipelines stretching through regions of wilderness, substations, oil refineries, nuclear power plants, wind turbines and any other piece of equipment placed in a high or remote location or which for any other reason is difficult or dangerous to reach. Drones are replacing ladders, power lifts, scaffolding and inspectors rappelling like mountain climbers.
Operators equip drones with still cameras, videos, infrared sensors and photography, lights, high-resolution sensors and equipment to calculate the thickness of walls.
Drones Are Keeping Bridges Safer
The states of Minnesota and Michigan are pioneering using drones to inspect bridges. Last summer, the Minnesota Department of Transportation tested the technology on four of its bridges: Chisago County, Little Falls, Orono and Stillwater. Usually, bridge inspections require a power arm to raise and lower a team of inspectors in a basket. Inspectors must close one lane of the bridge to provide parking space for the heavy truck.
The state of Michigan determined that two people and a drone could inspect a bridge in two hours for just $250 with minimal disruption to traffic or distraction of drivers. Other inspections require 4 people, 8 hours and a cost of $4,600.
Drones are Replacing Hazardous Jobs Such as Roof Inspections
Performing manual roof inspections has never been a safe job, no matter what kind of safety shoes you wear. Balancing on pitched roofs is always a challenge. If you do stumble and roll, there’s no safety net at the bottom. According to CNN, roofing is one of the most dangerous jobs in America, with 38.7 deaths per 100,000 workers. Drones don’t put on new roofs, but they eliminate the risk for inspectors.
One man in Iowa thought it odd his house passed a building inspection even though its roof needed replacing. He discovered the inspector didn’t look at the roof because it was too high. Therefore, the homeowner bought a drone and went into the house inspection business for himself. Thanks to his drone, he inspects roofs and other hard-to-reach spots, and from the safety of the ground.
Delivering Food and Medical Supplies
Recently the nonprofit Field Innovation Team, which helps with preparing for disasters, and the company Flirtey conducted a successful ship-to-shore test to prove drones could transport medical supplies. The drone carried medical supplies, blood and medical specimens. This paves the way for using drones to transport medical supplies to remote areas and to areas affected by natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods.
Some areas of the world are always difficult to reach with food and medical supplies. Rough terrain and lack of roads makes physical access to much of rural Africa difficult. The British architecture firm of Foster + Partners, along with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, have chosen the Rwanda to test using drones with a 10-foot wingspan to deliver packages of food weighing 22 pounds to remote regions.
Drones Will Continue to Help Increase the Safety of the World in Many Other Ways
They can catch animal poachers, evaluate environmental damage, detect smugglers and human traffickers, observe positions of criminals holding hostages, perform search and rescue operations for lost people, monitor wilderness areas and ocean regions, find illegal logging, track developing storms, provide overhead views of forest fires and follow progress of crops.
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