​​IET explores the use of drones use in engineering

Exploring an IET good practice guidance document on the use of drones in the preventative maintenance of key engineering assets

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Aug 22, 2017
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Not a week goes by it seems without a news story about drones – whether it’s a hobbyist spying on their neighbour, a near miss with a commercial airline, the deployment of drones by local police forces or a story about how we will all soon be receiving our weekly shop via these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), there is no doubt that drones are becoming more mainstream.

Less widely covered, is the growing use of drones in a number of high profile industries such as the utilities sector. Being able to control a UAV, at relatively low cost, that allows you to access areas previously out of reach due to location, cost or scale opens up a huge potential to address key industry dilemmas.  The use of drones also provides the opportunity to remove humans from dangerous or high risk areas whilst carrying out inspections or surveys.

Good practice guidance

As with many emerging technologies however, there is often the need for good practice guidance. This is to ensure that everyone is operating on a level playing field, in a competent, compliant and/or safe manner. Over the past couple of years a number of drone operators have mounted thermographic cameras to their drones and are starting to offer aerial thermographic services. This is mainly in the solar sector but could potentially be used to aide preventative maintenance of assets in other fields of engineering, such as power distribution and networking and wind turbine inspections for electrical faults and structural crack/damage detection.  Other uses could be associated with Water pipeline surveys and inspections and the rail network power supplies. Thermographic inspection using drones comes with a number of challenges which could be addressed with the right kind of guidance.

In addition to the benefits associated with thermal imaging there are also benefits from imaging of assets to identify damage and potential damage of assets associated with the environment, for example tree fall damage to overhead lines due to high winds.

How can we work together?

The IET is looking to put together a representative panel to explore whether there is a gap in the market for good practice guidance in this area.

In the first instance the IET is looking to work with other professional bodies, trade associations, asset owners and government organisations who might wish to become partners. The first stage of this would be to hold a round table discussion to identify the potential in this area and outline the possible scope of any publications that might be needed by the sector.

Ideally we would like to include professionals from:

  • Solar construction companies and asset owners
  • DNOs
  • Emerging O&M service sector specialists and technical advisors
  • Utility and rail network asset owners
  • Water services asset owners
  • Drone operators
  • Mobile Data site operators

The round table discussion will be held at our head offices at Savoy Place in London on 19th September 2017 starting at 10:00 for 10:30 start with a planned finish time of around 14:00.

If this sounds like something you would be interested in attending then please confirm your attendance by contacting tonyhicks@theiet.org, no later than 7th September 2017.

Go to the profile of Tony Hicks

Tony Hicks

Head of business development - standards & compliance , Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)

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