4 Reasons Drones Outperform Crewed Aircraft for Industrial Inspections

Whether behind the scenes or directly, it’s amazing to see how drones are becoming a part of everyday life.

Drones are starting to deliver our food, fight climate change, and photograph some of our most important events.

And, as uncrewed technology continues to advance, the potential seems limitless.

In fact, the world’s first urban airport for drones and air taxis just recently opened in the city of Coventry in the UK. 

Every day, UAVs are becoming more useful and more prevalent in our lives.

And, while drones probably won’t ever completely phase out crewed aircraft, they are giving helicopters and airplanes a run for their money.

So, why is that?

Well, with improved safety, lower cost, better data collection, and the ease of becoming a UAV pilot, they’re a perfect solution.

Let’s look at these four major advantages with a real-world scenario: industrial inspections. 

Drones are Safer than Crewed Aircraft

Industrial inspections often take place in challenging and dangerous environments.

Confined spaces, electrical hazards, extreme temperatures, and high-pressure systems are commonplace in industrial facilities.  

But, for facilities to remain safe and productive, they need constant monitoring.

For several decades, helicopters and airplanes were the preferred tool in conducting some of the more dangerous inspections.

While these platforms performed a vital role, there’s now a safer way to complete inspections: using drones.

Unlike crewed aircraft, drones avoid placing people in harm’s way.

Why ask someone to go into a dangerous environment when UAVs can do it instead?

After all, if a drone crashes, you only lose the cost of the machine. If a helicopter or airplane crashes, lives are at stake.

Additionally, the autonomous capabilities of many commercial drones help avoid collisions in the first place.

With advanced obstacle avoidance features, flying in confined areas is no problem. And, it can be done safely and effectively as part of routine operations.

Using these features, drones inspect facilities from angles no crewed aircraft ever could.

Cost Benefits of Drones

No matter how good a system is, there’s always a lingering question: “What’s it going to cost?”

It’s a fair question.

After all, businesses succeed or fail based on their bottom line.

When it comes to choosing drones or crewed aircraft for your next industrial inspection, drones are without a doubt the more economical solution

First off, helicopters are far more expensive than drones, often costing millions of dollars.

Even beyond the initial purchase, there are inspections, maintenance, hangar fees, pilot training, and other upkeep costs.  

Even if you plan to outsource your flight needs, the costs of a helicopter or aircraft are still incredibly high.

Crewed aircraft require highly-trained pilots, expensive insurance, and fuel. Typically, the rate for helicopters in industrial inspections is several thousand dollars per day

On the other hand, many commercial and enterprise drones only cost a few thousand dollars.

Of, if you’re looking to outsource the job entirely, drone service providers usually charge only a few hundred per hour.

Any way you look at it, drones are far less expensive than helicopters or planes.

Drones Gather Better Data

One of the major drawbacks of crewed aircraft is the need for wide-open spaces. This limits where you can maneuver, fly, and gather information.

It also means you’re somewhat limited in the quality of data you can collect.

On the other hand, drones are capable of getting into spaces no crewed aircraft could hope to occupy.

When your inspection hazards include moving around structures, confined spaces, underneath bridges, or around low hanging wires and other hazards, drones easily outperform crewed craft.

Drones can maneuver into tiny spaces and approach from nearly any angle. This means UAVs can inspect areas that crewed aircraft simply can’t.

By approaching at various angles, drones can make incredibly detailed orthomosaics and digital twins of structures.

Where data from helicopters and planes typically leave ‘blind spots’ in the data, drones can gather every piece needed for the complete picture. 

As a result, you get better coverage of your inspection area, greater detail, and improved accuracy in your data collection.

Ease of Training

If you’re looking to bring aerial inspection abilities in-house, you’ll need to take the human factor into account.

Pilots of crewed aircraft take much longer to train than drone pilots. In fact, it can take months before a pilot is ready to perform the role.

But, with the proper training courses and qualified instructors, a person with no experience in the UAV industry can learn to fly a drone.

In many cases, all it takes is a few hours of training to get started. Piloting a crewed aircraft is much more demanding and requires months of dedication and thousands of dollars’ worth of classroom and aircraft instruction periods.

While the training requirements for crewed aircraft are prohibitively high for most organizations, training a capable team of UAV pilots is well within reach.

Bringing it Together

While drones won’t replace all crewed aircraft in the near future, they are certainly proving better at specific tasks.

Industrial inspections are vital to keeping our infrastructure up and running.

Here, drones provide many advantages over crewed aircraft and are often the best choice for the task.

They’re safer, less expensive, provide better data, and are much easier to incorporate into your programs.

Are drones the right solution for your needs?

How do you get started? Do you hire out or bring your drone program in-house?

At Consortiq, we help you find a better way with drones, from consultation and program implementation to actually doing the work for you.

Ready to learn more? Just complete the form below to schedule a risk-free consultation!

Picture of David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

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