Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles were developed for military use in the Gulf War. Up to recent times they have been larger devices aimed at both being unmanned and having a long time aloft.

More recently they have been developed for a broader range of operations and decreased in size.  Drones can provide regular low-cost inspection and data capture of assets.

Utility companies use drones to inspect areas of their network that are difficult to access during manual inspections. In the case of water utilities, drones can fly in dense forest regions that are hard to penetrate during harsh weather conditions — recording data for pipeline inspections as well as thermal/laser imagery data captured over time.

Common uses for drones now include;

  • Water reservoir monitoring and water quality security,
  • Pipeline corridor inspection and leak detection,
  • In tunnel / pipe inspection and asset condition assessment,
  • Dam and catchment management,
  • Scanning of assets to develop 3D models.

Modern drones are equipped with analytics that can handle large gigabytes of video and imagery data, which is then integrated with enterprise-level collaboration and content management systems to manage unstructured data on big data platforms.

The use of drones is expected to expand both in usage and purposes over the next 10 years.

David Nixonhas worked the water industry for over 30 years across a variety of utilities, engineering and business consultancies. David currently acts as director and advisor to a variety of organisations across Australia. david@nixonclarity.com

Credit: Cognizant