Spotlight on Parker Harrington - Austin Walker
The importance of facade inspections in regards to safety cannot be overstated. These inspections are mandatory in many parts of the country because of the risks posed to pedestrians by unstable facade conditions. It’s unacceptable for loose bricks and lighting fixtures to fall to the sidewalk. Drones have emerged as a transformative technology in these inspections.
It’s becoming common knowledge that photographs captured via drone can be stitched together into an orthomosaic image, a vital tool for surveying, inspections, and other topographic data analysis. More recently, however, that same tech has been revolved 90 degrees upward to be used to inspect vertical planes.
Traditionally, these inspections have been done via scaffolding or “Rope Access,” where personnel descend the sides of the buildings in harnesses. These methods can be more intrusive, time-consuming, dangerous, and expensive. Far enough along in the process of maintaining a facade, you may eventually need hands-on repairs and inspection. However, the more you’re able to accomplish via drone, the better.
DroneUp is a leading provider in building and infrastructure inspections via drone, including facades. It begins with our Sales and Flight Operations teams coordinating with customers to determine their precise needs. Our Flight Operations team then carefully designs the missions before dispatching them to one of our thousands of pilots across the country.
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One of the many talented pilots who do work like this for DroneUp is Parker Harrington, whom we’ve selected to be featured in this Drone Jobs installment. Parker flies DroneUp missions for a national engineering company specializing in building inspections. To extend their workforce and collect more accurate facade data, they utilize DroneUp pilots.
“It’s a lot like capturing (orthomosaics). As far as the mechanics, it’s no different” Harrington said. “Facades are possibly more challenging; even when the missions are already programmed, you have to be diligent and follow along in case you need to take over at any point.”
Parker has been working in the drone industry for nearly a decade, and he’s been along for the ride as more and more applications of the technology and opportunities come up. Telecom, energy, infrastructure – name it, and he’s done it. He’s been a DroneUp pilot for nearly three years, and his impressions of the platform are positive.
“I’ve worked with a handful and I’ve thought DroneUp’s communication is outstanding,” he said. “‘This is the job, this is the schedule, this is the contact information.’ I come to the site and there are specific flight grids to fly. They made it easy to get what I needed to get.”
For Parker’s most recent facade inspection with DroneUp, he faced a challenge while capturing one of the four sides of a condominium in Massachusetts. The backside of the building was close to the tree line. So close, that he didn’t feel comfortable using an automated flight. He would have to do it manually.
“At that point, there are some tricks you can do. Fly over the tree line, use oblique angles, etc.,” he said. “But these things are ultimately going to be stitched together to make a model. If you don’t have overlap, you don’t get complete data. If you’re flying with different gimbal pitches and heights, it won’t come out correctly.”
Despite the challenge, Parker captured and delivered all required data to generate a model that the building superintendents were able to use. He’s an experienced pilot, especially in regards to construction, and he knows what needs to be included.
On construction sites, he’s grabbed the attention of site supervisors by simply doing his job. The ability to bring the drones close to high-up surfaces and get high-definition photographs of points-of-interest is valuable, and that value is quickly recognized.
“When you start getting much closer shots and flying with precision, people are impressed,” he said. “They tell me ‘Well now I want weekly update photos.’ In many cases, they had no idea that inspections like that were a possibility.”