After understanding the main requirements for a successful drone inspection, the next aspect to consider for most enterprises is what the actual process looks like. At a high level, a good drone inspection consists of a 4-step workflow starting with identifying the expected outcome and finishing at a data analytics stage where one can evaluate the match between the data acquired and the expected outcome. Lets look at each of these phases in detail and the key questions to ask each stage.
1. Identify the expected outcome of the operation
It starts with the objective and the expected outcome. Understanding your drone inspection objective is crucial, this can be the scope and/or a specific tangible end result. For example - the objective maybe an inspection, mapping, engineering, modeling, or a surveying project. These expected outcomes can vary within and across industries. Each of these objectives can influence the parameters when planning your operation.
2. Plan the operation
Once you have defined the objective and expected outcome of the operation, it’s time to review the logistics. The number of sites in scope, size, location and the timeframe to complete each operation are some factors to consider. Also important at this stage is to select the provider (or number of providers) to work with in order to perform the operation. Most providers may have preferences towards specific equipment, capturing parameters image processing software, process flows. Asking for relevant sample data and case studies can help you minimize risk and disappointments.
3. Gathering the required data
Working with the right service providers ensures that you’re working with a qualified operator with the right tools to get the expected data. A good drone pilot with the right skills for the required operation will not only make sure the data is collected appropriately, but will be agile in identifying any potential issues or constrains to capture accurate data on site. Qualified drone pilots typically have experience with the type of operation to perform and are skilled to obtain the required data according to the expected outcome. These drone pilots also work with digital tools that help mitigate these issues and fly a smooth operation.
4. Analyzing the acquired data
Access to a robust analytics tool that provides you with reliable data is essential to enable decision making about your site. It's important to look at how this analytics tool will process the raw images into the required models, what level of data analytics, tools, and measurements the tool can offer, and other particular features that enable annotation and collaboration. The data format and models the analytics tool can provide are also important aspects, as is how well the tool can integrate to your existing workflows.
Analyze the outcome: Did you actually achieve what was planned?
After all the planning, data gathering and analysis it's time to ask the final question - does the end product match the expected outcome outlined in step 1? A good way to evaluate this is to assess whether there was adequate information available to make the decisions based on the data acquired, and if not, what must be changed in step 1. While one could expect some slight variations in the operation's outcome, the actual result should be a close match to the expected objective. If there is a bigger gap between the expected and the actual outcome, fine-tuning at some of the parameters in the expected outcome and/or planning phases will ensure a closer match in your next operation.