We will tell you right off the bat that, as of early 2017, 3D Robotics (3DR)…
In a variety of industries, visual inspections are key in ensuring quality control. Some of these
industries include pharmaceuticals, medicine, food, aerospace, and nuclear power. Where once,
inspections had to be done by humans, today, drones can handle this task instead. What do drone
inspection services entail?
Drone inspection is a career path in which drones with cameras are piloted to act as the
eyes during a visual inspection. Drones can access higher and sometimes lower points than
people can and also prevent potentially dangerous situations like a person having to climb
a cell phone tower or enter a mine.
If you’re still curious about the world of drone inspection, we recommend you keep reading. In
this guide, we’ll talk about drone inspection in greater detail, including its benefits and more
about the industries that use it (and how!).
What Is Drone Inspection?
Technology has changed the way we live in virtually every way. You don’t have to call a friend
when you can now text them. If you want to see someone’s face but you can’t visit in person,
you can video chat. You can watch TV on your phone, listen to music without ever owning a
collection, and look up any information you want instantaneously.
Technology has also positively impacted visual inspections. More and more industries have
embraced the use of drones to ascend to dizzying heights, dip down low, ease into confined
spaces, and assess the landscape via camera.
The photos and videos taken by the drone can be used as the basis of topographic or
orthophotomosaic surveys as well as aerial maps in 2D or 3D. Especially high-tech drones may
be outfitted with thermal imaging technology that can quickly pick up on defects like energy
losses, damaged structures, and leaks.
Besides the industries we touched on above, the following fields also heavily rely on drone
Gas and Oil
The pressurized vessels around the world that contain natural gas and other sources of gasoline
must be inspected during any given year. Normally, this would require an inspector to climb
scaffolding. With drones doing most of the inspection work these days, the UAV can easily
ascend, descend, and navigate around the oil and gas vessels to paint a clear picture of the
In addition to that service, drone inspection in the gas and oil sector also encompasses overseeing
production. Considering that crude oil and gas are manufactured via combining a powdered
catalyst and the heavy oil at very hot temperatures, it’s better to keep people out of this area of
For the safest operations, all equipment used in mining must be inspected. That includes
crushers, stockpile feeders, drop raises, grinding mills, conveyor belts, and more. The mines
themselves also need frequent checks for safety and stability. Even still, everyone has heard of a
story of miners getting stuck, sometimes crushed under the rubble. Their rescue is an arduous,
difficult, and sometimes impossible task.
Drones can enter even the parts of a mine that may be less stable, such as the stopes. The drone’s
size also makes the UAV less likely to disturb the mine, which the same cannot be said for
The electricity that powers your home and office comes from many sources, such as
smokestacks, transformers, solar power, hydropower, wind turbines, waste incinerators, heat
recovery steam generators, and coal-fired boilers. Getting near a lot of these power sources is not
necessarily safe, but if the job requires inspection of these components–which it does–then that’s
what an inspector must commit to.
Drones can take the human element out of the equation. This is useful from a cost-savings
standpoint as well, since usually to access the above power sources, scaffolding must be
Drone Inspection in Insurance
We’ve discussed the usage of drones in the realm of real estate, and their job is not too different
in insurance. Drones can take photos or videos from an aerial or side view of the property after a
storm passes through such as a hurricane or tornado.
Rather than navigating over fallen trees, smashed glass, and broken wood like a person would
have to, a drone can fly steady in the sky. That makes their operation in this instance much safer
than a person going in after a storm.
Utilities and Infrastructure
Our world is built around infrastructure, including roads, railways, air transport, bridges, and
utility towers. This infrastructure is how we live our lives, getting to and from work, school, and
anywhere else we want to go. The inspection and maintenance of infrastructure and related
utilities are paramount, and drones have started to get involved more.
Like in insurance, drones will enter infrastructure after a major storm when a safe entry for
people is not necessarily guaranteed. Drones can also outpace human inspectors in gathering
inspection data in this area.
Drone Inspection in Construction
From the pre-planning stage to project completion, UAVs are a valuable asset in the field of
construction. The workers can draw up orthomosaic or 3D maps using a drone, selecting the
safest spot to build a structure. The mapping can be continuously updated by the drone to
encourage safe operation on the construction site. If a potential hindrance is identified early, the
team can avoid it to meet the project completion date. Roof inspections are also in this area.
The realm of chemicals requires inspection in areas like storage silos, heat exchangers, suction
ducts, fiberglass storage tanks, pressure vessels, fermenter tanks, conduits, cables, and pipe
Like in many of the other industries we’ve discussed, to access these chemical holding
containers and structures, scaffolding is needed, which takes time and money to build. Drones
save money in that regard, but they also promote human safety.
Chemicals are almost always dangerous to be around, even through indirect exposure. Breathing
in chemicals can lead to health issues down the line. Drones have no such concern for these
health issues, so they can stick around longer in chemical zones for more thorough inspections.
The last industry that relies on drone inspection is agriculture. Livestock health checks are part of
an inspector’s job, as are soil health tests, land and irrigation condition assessments, and
overseeing the progression and health of crops.
Drones can detect crop death as soon as it starts before the issue can spread and affect a whole
swath of crops. Now a farmer can act quickly so their crop yield isn’t affected for the year ahead.
What Are the Benefits of Drone Inspection?
There’s a reason so many industries have embraced drone inspection, some of which we’ve
touched on in the section above. Here’s a list of associated benefits of assigning visual
inspections to drones instead of people.
Reduced Insurance Costs for Inspectors
Since the job of a human inspector is rife with potential danger, they often insist on a high
amount of insurance to protect them if the job goes wrong. For any company working with an
inspector, this means paying a larger premium for work. By using a UAV to do the same job, the
insurance costs go down a lot further without the risk of a human life on the line.
Drones Can Go Places More Easily Than People
Scaffolding to reach the top of a silo or a wind turbine? A drone doesn’t need it. An excavated
path to traverse through a mine? UAVs can get through even narrow twists and turns that would
be impossible for a human to navigate.
Besides their capacity to go further is also the speed at which a drone can do it. For example, a
farmer who wanted to check his or her crops in their entirety could spend hours walking through
their field for their inspection. A drone can cut that time in half or better, doing the job in record
Equipment Needs Less Downtime
A human inspector will spend time and strenuous effort to finish their assessment of a building
or a piece of infrastructure. They’ll be exhausted and need a period of rest before they can
resume their duties. Drones, while they can’t fly forever, can do a job continuously with less
downtime. This results in a faster inspection turnaround.
No Disturbances to the Ecosystem
In agriculture especially, it can be hard for a human to get an accurate gauge on livestock when
their very presence can scare the animals away. They can even accidentally disturb the nearby
soil if they take a wrong step. This all affects their inspection results.
UAVs won’t fly low enough to the ground to make contact with the soil. While some animals
might be perturbed by the sight of the drone flying through the sky, today’s pro UAVs are
whisper-quiet, which should reduce the rate of spooked livestock.
Fewer Health Risks to Inspectors
The last benefit of drone inspection is by far the most convincing reason to stop sending out
human inspectors for these dangerous jobs. From being around chemicals to having to climb tall
structures, enter potentially collapsible mines, or go into a structurally unsound building, an
inspector’s job is fraught with life-threatening risks.
In a worst-case scenario, loss of human life can occur. These are preventable tragedies with
drones at the helm. Should a drone enter an unsafe situation and not make it out, then yes, there’s
money gone as well as the footage the drone had captured. However, no humans were harmed,
and that’s priceless.
Drone Inspection Checklists
If you’ve been enlisted to use your drone for inspection purposes, these three checklists will be
quite helpful for you. We have pre-flight, mid-flight, and post-flight checklists for you to follow
for the safe operation of your drone no matter where it goes.
1. Make sure your drone’s battery is fully charged.
2. Clear the current photos and videos stored on your drone’s camera.
3. Consider adding an extra SD card to save more footage.
4. Check your drone’s gimbals to ensure your camera is steady.
5. Test the drone and the remote to confirm that both are operational.
1. Assess the battery health to estimate how much time your drone has in the air. Prepare
2. Test that all functions of the drone are working, including photos, videos, thermal
imaging, and livestreaming.
1. Pull the photo and video footage from your drone camera.
2. Inspect the drone for signs of visual damage to the exterior.
3. Recharge your drone battery to full.
4. When the battery charges, try your drone to make sure it’s in solid operating condition.
Drone inspection is a growing field as industries realize what an asset UAVs can be. By letting
drones do more visual inspection jobs, there’s room to save money, increase job speed and
efficiency, and, most importantly, keep people away from dangerous scenarios. We hope this
article got you interested in drone inspection!