A lot of potential for drones in construction sector
Thanks to financing by 3TU, the University of Twente can assist the construction sector in the utilization of drones. UT researches show contractors, building inspectors and advisers that drones, equipped with infrared cameras (i-Drones) can monitor the asphalt's temperature and that they can detect insulation deficiencies in buildings and non-functioning cells in solar panels. The latter is helpful in determining whether recently laid asphalt is ready to be steam-rolled. Steam-rolling can damage cold asphalt.
"It is our goal to show the construction sector that a drone with infrared cameras can be used for managing and inspecting building projects", says Bram Entrop, Civil Engineering professor at the UT. "We are developing a protocol that ensures the construction sector will accept drones more quickly. Imagine mapping air routes or measuring the height, slope and distance to buildings. We also want to show the government that drones have a lot of potential and that the Netherlands should not stand in the way of technology's progress or miss the boat because of strict legislation."
Researchers estimate that a drone can map out any regular office building within about twenty minutes, its battery life, and thereby locate heat leaks. By using a regular camera at the bottom of the drone, a so called 3D Point Cloud is assembled with use of special software. Adding the infrared camera's information to this 3D Point Cloud and automatically processing it is the last challenge remaining.
HAND-HELD CAMERAS TO BE REPLACED BY DRONES
Inspections of the exterior of houses or buildings that require infrared technology are currently still executed with hand-held cameras. In some instances, small planes fly over neighbourhoods to take photos of the rooftops with infrared cameras. For inspectors checking insulation and looking for heat leaks, it is currently very difficult to inspect the roof from the outside. Some spots are hard to reach for them as well, like where the roof and walls of an existing house meet. When it comes to solar panels, deficiencies are sometimes only noticed when the long-term profits disappoint.
"An i-Drone could solve the issue," says Entrop. "With solar panels, we are not just talking about houses, but also about those huge solar panel fields in for example America. Inspecting them takes a lot of work. A drone equipped with a thermal camera can easily measure the cells' temperature and therefore trace deficiencies."
Entrop thinks there is a fourth application for i-Drones, apart from asphalt, insulation and solar panels. "If legislation allows it, they can be used to maintain authorisation or to trace illegal building activities. Inspectors cannot just peep over every fence, but drones can. We will keep people's privacy and safety in mind, of course."
VIDEO: SUCCESSFUL FIRST TEST
The University of Twente is part of a consortium which, in the meantime, has completed the first successful test in Borne, a municipality in Twente. The possibilities of i-Drones have been recorded on video by a regular drone. The researches plan to test the elaborated ideas and protocols by flying with a drone with an infrared camera at the end of this year. Apart from that, Entrop is still looking for master's students who want to conduct their final thesis assignment within this project.
This so-called Lighthouse project 'Throw in the i-Drone' is financed by 3TU.Bouw. Apart from Entrop, researchers Alexandr Vasenev of the Services Cybersecurity and Safety group and Matteo Fumagalli of the Robotics and Mechatronics department are involved in the project on behalf of the UT. Eric van den Ham and Regina Bokel from TU Delft also participate. Meanwhile, contact with the business sector has been initiated.
University of Twente 24 April 2015
Placed by Jochem Vreeman