An industrial drone, or UAV, is an aerial vehicle capable of deploying specialist payloads within industrial applications. Industries frequently utilising UAVs include the Energy Sector, Mapping & Surveying, Defence, Security and Law Enforcement. Built to a higher specification than commercial drones, industrial UAVs often deliver improved range capabilities and flight times, advanced avionics systems and controls and the ability to deploy a wide range of payloads including specialist sensors, imaging equipment and bespoke payloads for research and surveying applications.
Payloads and Sensors
Industrial UAVs are fitted with sensors or payloads tailored to their mission. This specialised equipment has a wide range of specifications and uses, making them a suitable alternative to manual inspection services in numerous sectors. Industrial UAVs offer a safe, efficient and accurate way to gather data on a wide range of missions.
Industrial Drone Payloads
The term ‘payload’ simply refers to the equipment carried by the drone specific to the mission or task that is being carried out. For industrial drones this will usually be imaging equipment or sensors designed to inspect or assess a situation, asset, or location. The greater the weight and size of the payload, the more substantial the UAV platform will need to be. It is worth nothing the increased weight will also require more powerful motors as well as more or larger blades and might lead to increased fuel use and shorter flying times.
With new industries using UAVs for more and more demanding tasks ISS have developed a first-of-its-kind high endurance hydrogen fuel cell powered drone to offer a lightweight alternative UAV fuel source capable of up to 120 minutes flight time.
Drone payloads vary from industry to industry, with known deliveries including everything from Dominos pizza to humanitarian aid in inhospitable conditions where light aircraft could not land.
In the case of cinematic UAVs, the payload refers to the cameras and imaging equipment used for capturing aerial shots. This type of filming is considerably more cost effective than using helicopters or planes, and with hydrogen fuel cell technology, UAVs can be refuelled quickly, reducing down-time and allowing more shots to be captured within a shorter time frame. An industrial UAV allows the very best of camera technology to be mounted on to the airframe.
Industrial Drone Sensors
There’s a wide range of industrial UAV sensors are available, including:
Chemical detection sensors – UAV chemical detection sensors are widely used in the energy sector, and for surveying and inspection of gas fields, towers, and industrial rigs. Industrial UAVs can cover large areas such as gas fields more quickly and accurately than manual inspections. By catching gas pipe defects and gas leaks early a substantial amount of money can be saved, as well as decrease the impact on the environment.
LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors for commercial drones are sensors designed to send rapid laser pulses to the ground to create a 3D map and capture advanced geospatial and topographical mapping data. LiDAR is used in a wide range of industries from road mapping to farming, to map areas quickly and more accurately than ever before.
Infrared and thermal sensors
Infrared and thermal sensors for industrial drones have a wide range of applications. Thermal sensors can be used for anything from detecting a heat or water source leak in a pipeline system, to search and rescue teams locating missing persons from the air at night. Where drones are available, fire crews will use industrial drones laden with thermal sensors to gauge the spread of fire and structural damage caused before entering a burning building. Thermography for industrial drones most often means surveying areas to create elevation and 3D models of hard to reach and hard to survey locations.
ISS Aerospace have designed and built a world first Magnetometer Array industrial drone sensor, primarily for use in unexploded ordinance detection. This specialised magnetometer was designed for use by a number of sectors, including the energy sector and humanitarian societies working in conflict zones to locate small and large munitions below the surface.
Magnetometers have a number of other more mainstream applications such as performing surveys of the Earth’s magnetic field, its strength, depth, and locate variations therein. They may be used to locate ferrous metal deposits, buried archaeological artefacts, underground structures, oil and mineral deposits, and more.
An electrical corona is a partial discharge in the air surrounding the conductor. A UAV corona camera picks up this crown, or halo of energy which is transmitted as visual data to the analyst on the ground. This is useful for industrial applications such as identifying power line and pylon inspection issues, where insulation may be damaged, causing energy loss, and potentially causing damage to the affected area.
Radiation detection sensors
Industrial drones can carry radiation detection sensors to areas deemed too hazardous to send workers. This may apply to disaster zones, areas where radiation is suspected to have increased, nuclear incident, or monitoring nuclear plant component degradation.
Photogrammetry survey by industrial drone is commonplace within surveying, mapping and to create 3D models. Photogrammetry measures the distance between objects and builds a precise map based on these measurements. Photogrammetry drones can be used to map landscapes, construction projects, and even in law enforcement to survey and report on crime scenes and scenes of accident.
Autonomous or Semi-Autonomous Capabilities
Industrial drones are a highly flexible solution with autonomous or semi-autonomous capabilities. Autonomous drones can operate independently using the on-board computer under certain conditions, or semi autonomously under the end control of a pilot. The pilot has instant access to data collected by the drone.
By nature, being sent to areas deemed too dangerous for workers means industrial grade drones have to be resilient, reliable, and robust. They need to be able to operate in adverse weather conditions and harsh environments. ISS Aerospace manufacture industrial UAV in house, using advanced construction methods. All of our drones are built using cutting edge technology and are built to aerospace grade quality using carbon fibre and metal 3D printing to ensure the highest level of strength and structural integrity.
Industrial Applications for Drones
ISS Aerospace industrial drones are already being used by a number of high profile clients in a number of verticals including the energy sector for gas sensing and surveying, thermal imaging, and remote sensing. Our industrial UAV are also widely used in the defence, security, law enforcement, surveying and mapping sectors.
The sectors already using UAVs are often governed by stringent legislations and rules relating to health, safety and the environment. As a result, the industrial specification drones we produce at ISS Aerospace are designed to meet these high standards and operate in the most challenging of environments all around the world. It is this reliability, rugged built quality and versatility that differentiates industrial UAVs from their hobbyist counterparts.
ISS Aerospace is a full service unmanned aerial vehicle and systems manufacturer. Serving both the civilian and defence markets. We design, manufacture and support Unmanned Air Systems (UAS). We produce cutting edge, bespoke, cost effective solutions as an end to end service as well as operational services.