In many major metro areas, such as New York City, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco and more, there are façade ordinances that now dictate that building owners inspect the façade every five years to make sure that it is in safe condition. There are many buildings that will need periodic and scheduled maintenance inspections performed quickly and efficiently. While in the past this has been a manual, time-consuming process, it can now be accomplished with a combination of drones and AI to gather and analyze building façade images for inspection.
At ConnexiCore™, we provide fast, reliable, and cost effective façade and building envelope inspections for architects, engineers, builders, general contractors, facilities management companies, and other commercial real estate professionals. We do this with precise aerial data collection and report documentation utilizing drone mapping and high quality 3D modeling. When integrated into BIM (building information modeling) to create as-built conditions, drones are a smart choice for planning façade repair remediation and for preserving accurate historical feature imaging and 3D data.
UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems), better known as “drones”, are quickly becoming a preferred tool for façade inspection engineers and stakeholders. Drone technology provides more detailed building and façade inspections, increases public safety, and reduces costs. Drones are extremely nimble devices that can be deployed in minutes. In the past, you might have had to use a swing stage, manlift, or complex scaffolding systems to get access to a certain part of a building. But the ability to rapidly deploy a drone can save a significant amount of time and cost by comparison.
Drones can also be equipped with sophisticated cameras, sensors, and payloads to conduct highly detailed visual observations. It’s even possible to include dual cameras for simultaneous thermal and RGB imaging to look for water infiltration, heat loss, and leaks in buildings and facades.
Drone façade inspections save significant amounts of time and cost. As with any new technology, though, regulation comes into play and drone use for commercial building inspection purposes is no different.
The FAA regulates and licenses pilots, registers devices and additionally, state and local governments may have restrictions on the time that the devices can be used and how high the UAV can fly. One of the most important aspects of regulation is that of privacy, and drones cannot be used without the full consent of owners. Drones do not replace building inspection engineers, but they can be used as a tool to help refine and focus inspections that can later then be more closely analyzed at arm’s length.
Drone inspections utilizing AI can detect and analyze different types of building materials, ranging from brick masonry, stucco, concrete, and more.
Most advanced drone services companies, such as ConnexiCore, are familiar with and work often with computer vision, which is a narrow form of AI (artificial intelligence). In the last few years, there has been an explosion of capabilities that achieve faster than human results. By combining computer vision with machine learning that provides functional AI, drones can be trained to detect, monitor, and classify damage in building structures both horizontally and vertically.
Algorithms do not learn completely by themselves. are not like humans. They are trained by humans who have annotated thousands of images. Once you’ve trained it, it doesn’t get tired or bored. It shows the same efficacy whether it’s the first image or hundred thousandth image.
The drone mapping process can identify hairline cracks, large spalling exposed rebar, efflorescence, and various other damaging conditions. So how would this technology change the way major engineering firms and forensics firms do their job? It is going to be as simple as hiring a competent drone services firm and flying pre-planned autonomous flight plans on each structure that is inspected. But how do you make sense of all this data? How do you convert that data into actionable information and solve the problem? The ConnexiCore Image Analytics team can make it simpler for engineers to review actual damage conditions instead of having to pour over hundreds of thousands of images.
To facilitate review and analysis, our clients have access to our own web-based inspection portal called ConnexiCore Cloud™. In addition to providing an efficient method of reviewing and annotating thousands of drone images, it can also include images that are automatically analyzed by AI.
Depending on the need, we can also return on a regular basis, such as every quarter, every six months, or annually, to quickly assess changes via AI. The provides the opportunity to see where there’s unexpected accelerated change in a damaged area and get ahead of the curve. This can help both in terms of downstream safety issues, as well as a lower cost to repair before an issue becomes a bigger problem.