Un-Manned Aerial Vehicles & Building Envelope

August 3, 2016

Un-Manned Aerial Vehicles or Drones are fast emerging as a powerful diagnostic tool available to Building Science professionals practicing in Canada.

Since the early 1970s, the use of portable infrared thermographic imagers have been employed throughout Canada by trained Thermographers, Building Science Professionals, Designers, Contractors and Property Owners.

Infrared thermography, when used by those with an understanding of materials, system design and construction, can efficiently identify deficiencies that might otherwise go undetected.

With advancements in commercial unmanned aerial vehicles, it is now possible to conduct thermographic surveys from the air.

What is Thermography?

Infrared thermography is a method used to detect infrared energy emitted from the surface of objects within a field of view. Thermographic cameras can detect radiation in the long-infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum (9,000 – 14,000 nanometers) and convert this data into visible images. Infrared radiation is produced by any object at a temperature above absolute zero.  As an object’s surface temperature increases, the amount of infrared radiation also increases. The distribution of surface radiation is displayed as a visible image.  These visible images are called thermograms.

Current technology allows for the measurement of small increments in surface temperature. The results can be correlated to the performance of building materials and complex building envelope systems.

Un-Manned Aerial Vehicles as a Research and Diagnostic Platform

It is estimated that 2.6 million drones have already been purchased around the world for research, commercial and hobby use. It is expected that within a few short years, the number of “drones” in use will grow exponentially.

Drones are typically small aircraft that are propelled with a minimum of four rotors, powered by rechargeable batteries, which operate via radio control and are guided by GPS. They are lightweight and offer user-friendly flight to the operator.

The most sophisticated commercial drones available currently, utilize high definition (HD) video and thermographic cameras to identify energy leaks, entrapped moisture in conventional roof assemblies, and damage to exterior facades.

In Canada, one commercial operator is Toronto-based Industrial Skyworks (ISW), a leader in aerial building inspection using un-manned technology developed by SkyBEAM, in partnership with Tremco Roofing. This group offers their clients the opportunity to aerially survey large multi-building campuses, shopping centres, educational institutions and health care facilities.

SkyBEAM’s software consolidates thermographic imagery and HD video imagery into comprehensive, interactive and easy to understand reports that can be accessed by their clients via a cloud-based application. A virtual model of the subject building is created in 2D and 3D. The data collected can be transmitted to service technicians who are tasked with verifying the data, through geo-positioning. The technicians can see the exact location in relation to the suspected problem areas. Additional information can then be added from the field in real-time.

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Source: Construction Business Magazine