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How Drones Can Aid Preventive Maintenance

May 24, 2022

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” –Benjamin Franklin

Preventive maintenance is a no-brainer. As Franklin implied back in the 1700s, attending to something before it becomes a major issue is better than waiting until it becomes a necessity. Being attentive to maintenance issues before they become significant problems saves time and money.

But how can you, asset manager of a portfolio that includes multiple restaurants spread across vast geographical areas, realistically attend to all potential issues? It’s neither cost- nor time-efficient to travel to every location.  

Having a local facility manager take pictures and send them to a central location can be problematic. Will the facility manager capture the entire landscape – the roof, parking lot, siding, signage, etc.? Will the pictures be clear enough to depict the property accurately? Shooting such photos can also be dangerous since someone needs to climb onto the roof. The time-consuming venture is inefficient and may likely not convey a clear picture of the entire property. 

As an alternative, some asset managers rely on Google Earth to view a restaurant and the surrounding landscape, but the images may be dated. In addition, zeroing in on a particular area – for example, the size of a crack in the parking lot – is challenging.

Both methods require that you make presumptions. Despite good intentions and experience, you must apply your limited capital expense budget based on guesswork. This is not a best practice. A better way needs to be found.

Drones to the Rescue

In your quest to perform preventive maintenance, data is key. Having up-to-date information that can be carefully and easily examined empowers you to make wise and informed decisions. Drones can be your eyes on the scene and enable you to gather the necessary data.

Some think of drones as producing marketing material, but this is a limited perspective. Drones also take high-resolution images that can be used to audit property conditions. The technology captures hundreds of images as part of a drone-assisted audit, so an entire facility's condition and surroundings can be assessed.

Once a drone has completed an audit, multiple high-resolution images produce an orthomosaic map or orthophoto, a single image composed of many images that have been digitally stitched together and corrected for lens distortion, camera tilt, and perspective. This single image shows the entire area. Want to drill down and see a particular area – that spot on the roof, perhaps? No problem. You can inspect the individual images taken at that location.

Timing Is Everything

Typically, the more up-to-date the information, the greater its value. With old information, preventive maintenance may no longer be preventative but reactive. 

Drone property inspections can be completed in minutes by a single FAA-certified drone pilot. When you have regular audits – for example, the national roofing contractors association recommends roof inspections twice a year – you can schedule a flight in advance. In any scenario, the lead time for scheduling a flight is minimal.

And once a flight is completed, you can be looking at the orthomosaic in as little as 24 hours. So, you are getting a visual record of near real-time property conditions without having to be on site.

You can also hasten a maintenance project. Scheduling contractors to visit a property and then submit bids is often a slow process. Imagine instead sending an orthophoto and individual images to contractors. With this data, contractors can submit a bid without visiting a site – a surefire way to get a maintenance project moving quicker.

It’s All There

Keeping track of maintenance issues at multiple properties is challenging. However, when a property audit is done with a drone, the results become an irrefutable single source of truth. The data is retained in the cloud and can be reviewed, downloaded, and easily shared.

It's easy to compare information objectively with a single source of truth and an archive of visual data. For example, questions such as, “Is the water spot growing?” and “Was that crack there before?” do not require remembering or parsing notes that may have been written months before.

Instead, simply compare the images from past inspections to the present. With this information, you can determine if action is needed. That is preventive maintenance!

Another useful feature of drone imaging is the ability to write on the data. You can annotate, code and grade the issues based on type and severity, and create reports right on the data. Having all necessary information in the same place as the data makes it simple to stay organized and helps smooth out workflow.

Preventive maintenance is a money saver. Determining which maintenance issue(s) should be addressed and when while staying within a budget is a balancing act. It is easier to make these crucial decisions with up-to-date data. Using drones to conduct audits of your properties gives you the information you need. Drones enable you to be there without being there and to make fully informed decisions regarding preventive maintenance.

If you want to learn how you can leverage drones to improve your preventive maintenance, contact us today.