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Drone technologies in facility management.


Drone technology has improved a lot over the past few years. The drone has become faster, cheaper and more reliable. As a result, businesses are beginning to investigate how drones can be used in commercial sectors.


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October 13, 2022
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Drone technologies in facility management.

A survey conducted by Drone Industry Insight (DII), with results published in the drone market research organization’s “Drone Industry Barometer 2020” report, indicated that inspection maintenance was the top drone use case as noted by 35% of drone services providers and 18% of business users, respectively. Other key uses included mapping (25%.16%), surveying (15%/33%) and photography or filming (16%/19%). 

DII respondents ranked their reasons for implying drones as very important, important and not important. 60% said saving time was very important, closely followed by improving quality (59%). 53% said that improving work safety was very important and , finally, 47% t=ranked cost saving as very important. 

Another study by Market Insider in 2019 shows that the market will grow from $4.4 B to $63.4 B by 2025 for all the related Drone applications services. Drone commercial services are growing and expected to grow in the coming years. mentioned in their annual report that; Total value of the annual investment in the drone services business increased 14.4% compared to the previous year. 

Drones: Then and now

Drones started with photography & filming to unlock awesome opportunities. Drone are great addition in other industries for surveillance and analysis tasks where in the facility Management & Real Estate management are promising. The world has noticed the smart tool that can fly and collect data too and they call it “flying smartphone”. Drones were seen in Dubai during COVID 19 disinfecting the streets. 

Significant  & important improvements in drone technology over the past few years have made a big turnover toward the use of drones in certain commercial and industrial applications — including facility management. With drones, it’s possible to quickly and safely inspect the facade or infrastructure for damage or stress, sparing workers from dangerous or difficult working conditions. The result is money saved and a safer working environment as I will explain in this article. 

Drone technologies in FM

Drone technologies started to become popular in facility management with facade Inspection of all types of civil infrastructures & buildings and other aspects of the FM are emerging. Equipped with cameras and sensors, and in some cases already autonomous, drones can take a close look at facades in all types of civil infrastructures from building , towers, telecom and constructions especially with hard to access buildings. With a 360° view by a drone; a digital object of that specific object file can be maintained. Drones can also  inspect and monitor an entire area or space. Drone can do real-time monitoring that can be integrated into existing CAFM (Computer-Aided Facility Management) systems via numerous interfaces in order to make processes in technical building management more efficient. For example, drone data can be used to maintain an object database that feeds a digital twin with data. And data from existing BIM models can also be supplemented with drone images so that algorithms can match model and reality. Drones can also further speed up inspections by instantly providing facility management teams with valuable survey data by using specialized sensors. Cameras can be used for basic visual analysis, infrared scanners can measure roof saturation and even miniature methane sensors detect gas leaks. These drones can also be equipped with AI-powered image analysis software  that can identify damaged areas where the structure may have been weakened. This would be difficult or impossible to spot with the naked eye. With drones technologies, the facility management team can know sooner whether or not critical equipment is at risk or if an environment is safe for workers. 

The variety of tasks that drones can handle, they need to carry specialized equipment  to both collect and transfer the data to IOT ( Internet of things) end points or other facilities mentioned for analysis.  A basic drone gear will include navigational and communications devices such as GPS and Wi-Fi or LTE radios to transmit data. Video cameras & sophisticated imaging devices are considered a drone toolset. On the other hand; IOT connectivity to the drone will support real-time sharing of flight data, battery utilization information, hardware diagnostics, and delivery of firmware and software updates.  Data being processed in real-time will make drones look like any other data-gathering devices attached to an IOT.  

The technology has come a long way where drones today don’t even need a pilot to perform their inspections. Autonomous drones are already being used to inspect turbines on wind farms or any other civil infrastructure, and doing so faster than any other inspection company in the industry. As a result, a wind farm that would have taken three days to inspect can now be fully examined in just one day. 

And that could be done in 50% less time than the regular methods, while at the same time lowering labor & materials costs. Drones have a great potential as future key technologies in the facility management. 

The Facility Management companies are using drone data to build the foundation of a historical record and a single source of truth for all their physical assets. They’re using drone software to make collaboration seamless, as drone technology enables team members to view the site globally in real-time, and provide direct comments in-app. FM companies are taking advantage & leveraging drone related software to view images over time, detect where problem areas may be developing, react to new challenges, and be proactive in addressing potential problems before they worsen. Drone data is increasingly becoming vital for property and facility management teams looking to save time and resources.

It will take time for autonomous devices to replace human activities in facility management. But until then, they can certainly be an efficiency-enhancing addition under the supervision of human colleagues.

About the author:
Sharif Talib Kateeb has over 19+ years of rich and insightful experience, including over 13 years in the GCC. A proactive and result oriented Professional, with an accomplished track record for Data Center Facilities Management & Digital transformation processes and procedures to facilitate full compliance with international standards. Experience in Telecommunication & Consultancy with focus on technology trends.