Reducing Costs and Safety Concerns
Keystone Aerial, experts in digital, film, and LiDAR surveys, understands the challenges brought by bridge inspection work. Based close to the Upper Delaware River, they conduct regular aerial inspection surveys for the Delaware River Bay Authority to determine predictive maintenance and infrastructure needs.
Bridge inspection has traditionally fallen to engineers to make annual on-site inspections. An arduous and costly process, which often calls for partial or complete bridge closures over extended periods and is costly to bridge operators and poses dangers to the engineers on site. The introduction of UAV inspection has removed the occupational safety concern of engineers and eliminated the need to stop the flow of traffic during the mission.
Close Enough to Shoot without Danger
Challenged by the danger of flying close enough to obtain detailed imagery of bridge structures, together with FAA regulations prohibiting the flying of piloted aircraft any closer than 1,000 feet (under Visual Flight Rules), Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s), or drones, are the solution Keystone needs.
UAV’s are quickly deployed, manned easily, pose few risks, and offer stable platforms for a range of optical and thermal sensors. Phase One’s iXM- 100 metric camera on-board these aerial platforms provides invaluable aerial -imagery data that enables predictive maintenance for inspection missions of many structure types such as bridges, power lines, wind turbines, roads, forestry, and agriculture.
Acquired digital images can be assessed by analysis at a fraction of the cost of manned inspections. Effective inspection of aging infrastructure and fast identification of fundamental weaknesses is crucial. Drone technology, with medium format photography, assists in the execution of such projects while maximizing image quality and minimizing time, cost, risk to people, and traffic disruptions.
Aerial imaging can save operators 10-20 percent in annual inspection costs, that can run into the millions of dollars.
Keystone was one of the first commercial operators to obtain an FAA waiver to allow flight in controlled airspace. However, flying so close to structures can lead to greater magnetic interference and scattering of GPS signals. Wind turbulence close to bridges can also be incredibly variable and entails a lot of very stressful manual flying. This, coupled with rapid advances in aerial sensor technology, prompted the company to conduct a new bridge inspection trial from a safe distance.
Three advanced aerial cameras were tested aboard Keystone’s DJI Matrice 600 Pro (M60 0 Pro) hexacopter to determine how each performed.
A Clear Winner in Aerial Inspection
Phase One’s iXM-100 metric camera with 80mm motorized lens was pitched head-to-head against DJI’s Zenmuse X5 and Sony’s first-generation Alpha 7R cameras. AII three cameras were flown at two distances – 30 feet and 130 feet – along the bridge capturing stills.
The iXM-100 outperformed the other aerial cameras with images captured at a distance of 130 feet where definition was on par with images acquired by its nearest competitor at a distance of 30 feet, as images show.
Lightweight and purpose -engineered for UAV-based mapping, surveying, and inspection missions, Phase One’s iXM 100MP medium format camera is available with a range of RSM lenses at 35mm-300mm focal length. The field of view offers large surface coverage at extremely high resolution, providing an accurate visualization of objects with millimeter-sized damage spotting detection. The iXM-100 pushes the boundaries as the first high-resolution sensor to incorporate backside illumination technology to boost spectral sensitivity and extend dynamic range Wirelessly controlled motorized lenses with variable focal lengths means operators can key in new distances from which to focus while the motorized lens does the rest. A big time-saver.
IMAGE: Phase One’s iXM-100 metric camera with 80mm motorized lens was pitched head-to-head against DJI’s Zenmuse X5 and Sony’s first-generation Alpha 7R cameras. AII three cameras were flown at two distances – 30 feet and 130 feet – along the bridge capturing stills.
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