Drone Uses in HVAC & Heating

Drones are increasingly being used by mechanical contractors to study the thermal signatures of commercial buildings.   The advantages of performing a thermal study with a UAS, (Unmanned Aerial System),  are the time saving, and accuracy of the study.  Drone flights can record the elevation and GPS coordinates, as well as video or images of the surface(s) being studied for use later in measuring, or even constructing a 3D model of the data using a program such as https://pix4d.com/

Radiometric, Infra-Red, NIR, Multi-Spectral and Lidar are some of the types of sensors that can save you countless hours of engineering analysis.  These devices can range in cost from a few hundred dollars, to well over a Hundred Thousand dollars, depending on it’s intended use, and need for accuracy.

A drone can fly these sensors just a few feet above roof mounted equipment to tell whether fans are running, compressors are overheating and observe corrosion or other deterioration on the equipment.   A drone can do this much faster than a person with a ladder could dream of, and document it with Video that can be analyzed now or later, in the cloud.

A drone can  detect moisture and heat in areas of the building’s roof, mansards and exterior walls, which may indicate leaks or other factors that need to be addressed, in order to provide the proper climate control, and rooftop maintenance.

 

While a  person with a standard thermal image camera can capture much of this data,  more advanced radiometric sensors can actually record the exact temperature variations, and log them individually, so that the drone operator and mechanic can tell the difference between inlet and outlet temperatures on chillers, for example, within 1 degree of accuracy.  Radiometric data will also help identify motors and compressors that are overheating, or inefficient cooling systems before they fail.

Roofers, as well as mechanical contractors, use aerial drone data to see moisture evaporating from failed areas of a roofing system, and leaks of air or moisture at the rooftop penetrations, in ducts and soffits.  It is often better to obtain a drone aerial video, and images that are geo-referenced, than it is to have an in-person evaluation.  One reason is you can use numerous people to evaluate the visual cues available from data that is collected and assembled into a 3D model.  Another is the ease of measuring and estimating from the computer research-able data.

Property Managers are beginning to use drones for  inspection of roof systems, and equipment that is difficult, or dangerous to inspect; like HVAC systems, and roof mounted communication equipment.   High definition drone data enables them to discuss solutions over a video-conference call, during or just minutes after a flight.  Once data is uploaded to a cloud server, software analysis makes it possible to map out problems, measure areas affected, identify equipment serial numbers, and even send out alerts or e-mails to responsible parties if a dangerous condition exists.

Using a drone survey, of a rooftop, enables the owner or operator and contractor to fully understand a maintenance task, cleaning process or failure before sending a technician up.  This in turn, dramatically reduces the amount of time spent in a dangerous work-space.   Pre and post repair drone flights can provide lasting proof of conditions that were found and corrected; a task that  used to require a helicopter or airplane to accomplish.

Programs and Apps like DroneDeploy and Skyward allow the operator to plot out a mission using an image from google maps, or similar.  The mission may require the drone to take High Resolution photos every 10 feet over an area that covers 10 000 SF and after a few mouse clicks, the mission is uploaded to the drone, which then flies the mission autonomously.  GPS, altimeter and compass readings are all geo-tagged onto the images for precise location and measurements to be based on.   The mission can be saved and repeated by the aircraft over and over to provide day to day comparisons of progress or installations.

Drones reduce maintenance costs significantly by collecting more accurate data,; quicker than humans can. That translates into less man hours for diagnosis and less downtime for equipment which often equals money saved for both contractors, and their clients.  Using a drone to perform these aerial inspections can also lower Workers’ Comp insurance costs, and reduce injuries on the job.

A drone with a thermal camera costs around $10-12,000, or maybe more depending on the equipment selected.  Check out http://www.ukrspecsystems.com/pc-1/  as an example of an affordable Day/Night system.   When you think about how many job-site climbing injuries can be prevented, this system pays for itself very quickly.

Drone related laws are very much affecting the commercial use of drones, and are constantly evolving.  Anyone who wishes to use a drone commercially needs a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate (RPA) or another type of Pilot license with additional endorsements; information regarding this FAA guidance can research it by clicking here: https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/fly_for_work_business/becoming_a_pilot/

Use of a drone brings with it issues regarding privacy and permissions.  Be sure to check with your legal team and the clients staff onsite to make sure every one is aware of, and approves of the use of a drone to Survey/ Surveil the property involved.

This article may also be viewed at:
 http://www.hvacinsider.com/ 

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AUVSI Conference Introduces New Autonomous Technology

Each year the AUVSI Xponential Conference is held at a different location.  This year, it was Dallas, Texas.  What remains a constant is that new autonomous technologies are usually introduced there.  Things like unmanned helicopters, pipe crawling robots and systems for managing the terabytes worth of data being gathered by unmanned systems.

Some of the exhibitors are firmly planted in the industry like Lockheed Martin, a defense contractor for the U.S.  Lockheed martin is probably best known for the fighter jets that they produce.  So it was interesting to see the land based technologies they are developing, like unmanned ground vehicles that can re-supply troops or act as transport vehicles.

Some of the robots are well placed in manufacturing, like Baxter, from Rethink Robotics; shown here.  Each year, however, these familiar faces are showing up with new tricks and capabilities, some of which take advantage of Artificial Intelligence, and advanced sensors.   The latest developments include speech and facial recognition functions, intended to improve human interactions with these machines.

Small is not a term that fits every vendor.  This Norwegian made MR can lift 150 lb payload;  Griff Aviation makes even larger ones that can carry 400-500 lb or more.  These systems are intended for heavy lift operations like rescuing a person from the ocean, or troop supply missions.

Other vendors like UKR Spec Systems are competing heavily in the commercial market for Small UAV’s like this Airframe; The PD-1 which is similar in range and options to the Penguin C, but for around 40% less cost.

Even consumer electronics companies like Samsung have products emerging that will change the way we think of robotic assistants.  Check out this vehicle designed for parking lot security, mall security, etc.  In addition to being able to raise and lower a Boom Camera, this Autonomous vehicle includes a Call button for emergencies so the operator can carry on a 2 way conversation with patrons in distress.

We can hardly wait for the 2018 AUVSI Expo, which is to be held in Denver next year, from April 30th until May 3.

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UAS For Perimeter Security Systems

The convergence of Cellular data modems, cloud based servers and web apps/software have unlocked the potential of small Unmanned Aerial Systems to be used in a wide array of security uses.  New uses that will lower risk, speed the delivery of results and potentially save each industry a lot of money.

Patrolling a large area like a State Park, a city or even a large shopping mall can be expensive using ground patrols.  These entities will now benefit from new systems designed for the required endurance, and surveillance missions.  Now 60, 90 or even 240 minute endurance VTOL aircraft are providing services that used to require a helicopter.  In fact, many drones are purpose built miniature helicopters.

Olaeris AEVA 3 is an example of this kind of purpose built drone.

The Olaeris system is marketed as an autonomous replacement for a helicopter, with a rang of about 100 miles.  It can be automatically launched in response to an emergency call, and offers much quicker visual response times than on-ground responders.   Markets include perimeter security monitoring of Nuclear Power plants, Border Patrol and Municipal Emergency response.

Companies like SkySense have developed specific products like automatic charging tablets, while still other companies have integrated and/or improved upon their ideas to build self-contained drone enclosure systems like the H3 Dynamics DroneBox solar charging system in the video below.

H3 Dynamics specialize in Power systems, providing Hydrogen Fuel Cell technology, among their other products, aimed at the small UAS industry.

Permanent, tethered, self charging, networkable drones that can wirelessly transmit their data through a cellular cloud based service, or to a monitoring station nearby may change the way we patrol just about everything.  AT&T, Verizon and most major cellular providers are investing heavily in the development and use of cellular network services for drone use.

Companies like Elistaire make systems that connects to a multitude of “off the shelf” drones, like the DJI Inspire 1, turning them into tethered systems with unlimited flight times.  These systems are especially useful providing longer term surveillance for an outdoor festival or concert, etc. where permanent facilities are impractical to install.

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Drones at the Palm Beach Boat Show 2017

You cannot fly a Drone anywhere near the Palm Beach International Boat Show, without being certified to fly it,  and gaining special permissions;  filing flight plans with the airport, etc.  

DJI Inspire 1 is the drone of choice, for many of the luxury Yacht Captains, when use is allowed.  Universal access to parts and support in most ports, are the main reasons this unit is chosen.

 

Brownies Marine had a booth that was displaying the waterproof Splash Drone and other goodies,

our favorite toy is the remotely operated Deep Trecker ROV.  Check out this video:

Although, it is pretty impressive to see a 100′ yacht, with a remote control that allows the captain to stand on the dock.  He can parallel park, or maneuver into the tightest quarters using side thrusters and a sophisticated 900 mhz radio controlled pilot system.  Plus, if you can have your own Helicopter, who needs a drone anyway?

Thanks go out to the folks at Show Management for bringing this fantastic boat show to Palm Beach County every year!

 

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Drone Industry Major Partners Drive Innovation and Growth

What do Intel, Verizon, and John Deere tractors have in common?  An interest in what emerging autonomous unmanned aircraft systems can do.  Each of these companies have partnered with and/or bought a stake in the companies they work with to bring a blending of technology to market.

Intel acquired Ascending Technologies, a well established German Multi-rotor drone manufacturer, this past year.  They were already working together integrating the Intel collision avoidance sensor system designed for small UAS, called “RealSense.”  Together they have the design, sensor, chip manufacturing and programming experience needed to do almost anything.   The first collaboration, of course, was the Swarming drones that can put on a light show and display a heavenly view of the company logo.

Verizon just acquired Skyward, a drone operations software platform.  The Skyward Partner Network is tied in with PrecisionHawk, Drone Deploy and SenseFly to automate flight data logging. They have tested using drones to roll out temporary cell service to emergency situations or outdoor events.  They were early pioneers on studying 3G and 4G network use for drone control BVLOS, (see this article).  Verizon definitely wants to capitalize on monthly access accounts for drones.

Meanwhile, AT&T has paired with QualComm to test it’s LTE networks for use in control and data transfer from drones, while in the air.  BVLOS flight is expected to be one of the best uses for this pairing of technology.

John Deere is very technology oriented, as one of the first to integrate GPS systems with autonomous control of their farm & Construction machinery.  Now they have partnered with Kespry Drone, a California based Drone manufacturer, that also maintains a cloud service data delivery system.  The Kespry drone uses 900mhz to communicate with a tablet controller, that delivers the data automatically to a cloud account using the cellular modem in the tablet.  John Deere will use the Kespry drone’s precision sensors to create three-dimensional models of everything below. The models are accurate within centimeters, which then translates into precise agricultural practices, construction analysis and maps.

Recently, Caterpillar made an equity investment in AirWare, which firm recently acquired RedBird, (read all about it here).   It won’t be long before the only employees needed in a mining operation will be the Programmers.   Using Drones in an intelligent way can help the construction and mining industries cut costs while improving efficiency, is the thought at Caterpillar.

Now let’s get back to Intel for a minute.  Intel invested 60 million dollars into the electronics firm Yuneec in 2015.  This year, however, Yuneec has announced it will eliminate over half of it’s US staff.  That could mean that Intel was more interested in their manufacturing capacity for consumer drones, and the “People Carrying” products that Yuneec produces, like their electric plane, the E430.    This two-seater  won the Lindberg prize for electric aircraft at AirVenture in 2010.

And that is just the beginning of the story.  Intel announced in March 2017 that it would purchase the Israeli Technology Firm Mobileye for between $14 – $15 Billion U.S.   Mobileye is a leading supplier of collision avoidance systems for  Automobiles.

And then there is the E-Volo Multi-Rotor Project…

Who would have thought ten years ago that these companies would be in Aerospace, Photogrametry, Collision Avoidance, Defense?

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New DJI Products for 2017

In celebration of Chinese New Year, DJI invited renowned illustrator and designer Martin Sati to customize the Phantom 4, adding colors and his imagination to this flagship DJI product.

Sati’s design features the phoenix as the centerpiece, a symbol of good fortune and happiness in Chinese mythology. He also drew inspiration from the four basic elements of nature – air, fire, water and earth – and reflected each of these elements in his design.

DJI labs have also been busy designing new products, many of which were on display at the C.E.S. 2017 show in Las Vegas.   Click here to read the full Press Release. 

The Mavic Pro, folding pocket drone, that was announced last year, is set to be delivered in January-February.

The new CrystalSky monitor is more than four times as bright as typical mobile devices.

 DJI GS Pro APP

DJI has been building a toolbox of products for commercial use as well.  For example, the new Inspire 2 with the X5 gimbal allows you to choose from Cinematic or Thermal image payloads.


Find out more about DJI Commercial Products by clicking here: 

 

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Sweden Heavily Regulates Camera Drone Use

To the start of the Supreme Administrative Court

Press Release:  Swedish Government regulates the use of a camera on a drone; but not for cameras on a car or bike…  [2016-10-21]

The Supreme Administrative Court in Sweden has, in two judgments, found that a camera mounted on a drone requires a permit under camera surveillance law,  while a camera mounted behind the windscreen of a car or on a bicycle handlebar does not need permission.

Camera regulations need to provide that a camera which is permanently mounted to a structure, so that it can be used for personal monitoring, is allowed.

Optris - GoPro payload

If such a camera can be remotely directed at a place to which the public has access, it must be the provincial government to give its consent.

A camera on the drone may be used to take photos of buildings and environments from the air . The camera in the car, and the bicycle will be used to take images during travel, possibly interacting with social media, but from a ground view perspective..

The cameras will not only momentarily, but recurringly, be placed in a car, on a bike or a drone. The Court therefore found that they are set to be regulated in the legal sense.

gopro-bike

The camera in the car and the bike will likely be attached to the inside of the windshield or on the bike mount. It is therefore senior in the driver’s immediate vicinity and  can be operated by him on the spot.  It is therefore not a surveillance camera.

However, when it comes to the camera on the drone, the photographs are taken from the air, but managed from the ground. The Court held that in this scenario, it can not be controlled locally.

goprodroneThe Court further found that the camera drone could be used for personal monitoring, although it may not be the intended purpose. The camera is therefore to be regarded as a surveillance camera.  Since the camera is additionally directed to a place to which the public has access, there need to be permits.

The goal of the prevailing case for the camera drone regulation was sent back to the Administrative Court for consideration on whether the issue would warrant that permits be granted. This second objective was completely approved, and the legislation was completed.

Translated & Adapted from the  Source:  http://www.hogstaforvaltningsdomstolen.se/Om-Hogsta-forvaltningsdomstolen/Nyheter-fran-Hogsta-forvaltningsdomstolen/Tillstand-kravs-for-kamera-pa-en-dronare-men-inte-for-kamera-i-en-bil/

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EPIC sues the FAA over failure to study Privacy before implementing new rules

epic_logo

EPIC sued the Federal Aviation Administration for failing to establish privacy rules for commercial drones as mandated by Congress. Congress required the FAA to develop a “comprehensive plan” to “safely” integrate drones into the national airspace. In 2012, over 100 organizations, experts, and advocates joined EPIC in petitioning the FAA to establish privacy protections prior to the deployment of commercial drones in the United States. In 2014, the FAA responded to EPIC’s petition, claiming that drone privacy implications “did not raise an immediate safety concern.” The FAA further stated, “the FAA has begun a rulemaking addressing civil operation of small unmanned aircraft systems in the national airspace system. We will consider your comments and arguments as part of that project.” But in 2015 when the FAA announced a rulemaking on commercial drones, the agency purposefully ignored privacy concerns, stating that privacy “issues are beyond the scope of this rulemaking.”

Visit https://epic.org/privacy/litigation/apa/faa/drones/  to learn more.

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FAA Advises Drone Users to Avoid Hurricane Affected Areas

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DO NOT FLY NEAR HURRICANE RESPONSE EFFORTS

As a result of Hurricane Matthew, there will likely be significant recovery efforts and the FAA may issue flight restrictions in the vicinity of disaster areas. During response operations to Hurricane Matthew, authorized aircraft may be flying at very low altitudes over affected areas.

Unauthorized UAS or drone operations may prevent other aircraft from performing life-saving missions and increase the risk of mid-air collision. Anyone, including hobbyist or recreational fliers, who interferes with disaster response efforts is subject to civil penalties of up to $32,140 per violation and possible criminal prosecution.

Unmanned aircraft system (UAS) or drone operators are responsible for checking applicable flight restrictions before operating and must not interfere with any aircraft assisting in hurricane disaster response operations, regardless if there is a flight restriction in place or not.

Drone operators may obtain information about posted flight restrictions by using the FAA’s B4UFLY mobile app or by checking the FAA’s website: https://pilotweb.nas.faa.gov/PilotWeb/.

UAS or drone operators supporting disaster response operations must be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prior to operating. Operators may seek approval by following these steps:

  1. The operator must secure support from a governmental entity, and the operation must directly contribute to the response, relief, or recovery effort.
  2. After completing step 1, the operator must contact the FAA’s Systems Operations Support Center (SOSC) at 202-267-8276for assistance.
  3. After calling the SOSC, the operator must also send the request via email to 9-ator-hq-sosc@faa.gov.
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Amsterdam Studying use of Robotic Boats

AMS AMSTERDAM TO GET WORLD’S FIRST FLEET OF AUTONOMOUS BOATS

roboat3

In a collaboration with researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS Institute) has started the world’s first major research program on autonomous floating vessels in metropolitan areas. Roboat will be conducted by researchers from MIT, Delft University of Technology (TUD) and Wageningen University and Research (WUR). The five-year program has a budget of €25 million and is set in Amsterdam.

roboat

While the first prototypes of self-driving cars are taking to the road, Amsterdam ushers in a new chapter in the international push for autonomous vehicles. Roboat is the world’s first large-scale research that explores and tests the rich set of possibilities for autonomous systems on water. “Imagine a fleet of autonomous boats for the transportation of goods and people,” says Carlo Ratti, Professor at MIT and principal investigator in the Roboat-program, “but also think of dynamic and temporary floating infrastructure like on-demand bridges and stages, that can be assembled or disassembled in a matter of hours.”

roboat-senable-city-1

“Roboat offers enormous possibilities,” says Professor Arjan van Timmeren, AMS Institute’s Scientific Director, “as we’ll also be exploring environmental sensing. We could for instance do further research on underwater robots that can detect diseases at an early stage or use Roboats to rid the canals from floating waste and find a more efficient way to handle the 12,000 bicycles that end up in the city’s canals each year.”

The research, with a €20 million MIT contribution, is set in Amsterdam but aims to become a reference study for many urban areas around the globe. “It is a fantastic opportunity for Amsterdam,” says the city’s alderman and vice mayor Kajsa Ollongren. “To have the world’s most prominent scientists work on solutions with autonomous boats in this way is unprecedented, and most fitting for a city where water and technology have been linked for ages.”

The first prototypes of Roboat will be visible in the waters of Amsterdam in 2017.

Roboat is a research program by AMS Institute. Working on the project is a consortium of researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Delft University of Technology and Wageningen University and Research. Waternet, City of Amsterdam and City of Boston are supportive of the program.

Roboat: research on world’s first autonomous fleet for moving people, moving goods, dynamic infrastructure and environmental sensing.

More information:
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