The Value of Drone Imagery & Replication of Technology
RAPID is breaking new ground in advancing drone technologies and connecting drones to create inter-operative (also known as ‘cooperative’ ecosystems) between drones. RAPID will save costs and lives by mitigating, decreasing, and annulling the risk factor of infrastructure collapse.
Currently, structural condition monitoring of the intermodal network of road and rail bridges, ships, and port infrastructure relies on visual examination by in-situ engineers. The use of UAS to capture inspection data is growing. However, during the current UAS survey operation, the fault identification process still requires the mobilisation of scaffolding and elevated machines to support inspection engineers that must physically investigate and mark detected faults while working at height. As a result, the UAS cost savings are negated, and the method is not scalable.
RAPID’s added value is that it will remove people from the dangerous working conditions of carrying out in-person visual examinations. As per our estimate, RAPID will unlock savings of up to €130,000 per survey for customers, generating revenue of €124 million and saving up to 100 lives per year by 2028. The commercial impact of RAPID, when applied to ship-hull inspection, would translate into a doubling of shipping industry profit margins through the reduction of survey inspection downtime and overheads.
With 1-in-10 bridges classified as at risk of collapse in many countries in Europe1, there is an unmet trans-European need to conduct over 1,000 bridge inspections per day, with a €7.5 billion maintenance backlog in the UK alone. Authorities are increasingly resorting to preventative closure of bridges to heavy vehicles or all vehicles. However, many dangerous bridges remain open, as evidenced by the 2018 Morandi bridge tragedy that killed 43 people, left 600 homeless, and had a devastating economic effect on Genoa, Italy. RAPID recognises that the economic and structural prospects of the transport network are mutually interdependent and will benefit both to enact fundamental safety improvements.
The key to the replication of autonomous drone technology is operational safety. The RAPID system will achieve operational safety through:
- digital management of UAS risk management,
- minimising UAS collision risk in complex Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) survey flights by developing swarm robustness,
- extending UAS reach, duty cycle, and power reliability by developing Smart Energy Management,
- equipping the maintenance-inspection workflow with smart automation,
- using the digital twins to simulate the planned mission,
- and interoperability with the U-Space system.
Ultimately, this will lead to deploying flocks of drones to inspect infrastructure, map territories, and visual, thermal concentrations that may be deployed in other sectors to enhance precision farming and nature conservation, for example.
With high spectral drone video and laser scanning, we will be able to identify which cows have higher temperatures in herds and therefore identify potential sick cows; we will be able to identify fields where grass is more luscious and therefore identify better crop rotation or pasturing for farming.
Protect cargo by improving intruder detection by enabling sentry surveillance in zones difficult to cover using CCTV. In particular, it will improve the waterside perimeter security to detect unauthorised access to containers. By equipping the UAS with a thermal camera, RAPID will improve early response to fires.
The drone technology being developed by RAPID will be able to source the entire value chain for more complete sustainability measures. Identify humans in accident areas of foodling, accidents at sea, etc. could be applied to rescue operations for environmental disasters as well as earthquakes, tsunamis or other.