Our Thermal Drone Surveying Service is now live. We are embracing thermal imaging technology as an innovative tool to enhance our services and existing surveying expertise Our new drone is equipped with a high-resolution thermal camera that enables geospatial and remote sensing analysis of properties invisible to the eye. This surveying method, including analysis with machine learning techniques, enhances our existing expertise in Ecology, Ornithology and Environmental surveying and provides utility across a diverse range of new and exciting applications.
Renewable energy infrastructure monitoring
Wind turbine blades and solar panels are susceptible to substantial wear and tear due to prolonged exposure to the elements. Considering the access limitations, manual inspection of such infrastructure can be dangerous, timely and expensive. A drone equipped with a thermal sensor provides a highly accurate, quantitative and time effective alternative. Mapping the infrastructure with a thermal sensor enables early detection of issues that are not visible with a regular camera and could potentially be missed by a manual inspection. For instance:
- Solar panels – Disconnected panels or strings of panels, bypass diodes, broken or malfunctioning cells, potential induced degradation.
- Turbine Blades – Delamination, fractures and micro-cracks, debonding, water or humidity infiltration, erosion.
This innovative solution for infrastructure monitoring enables accurate planning of maintenance activities, supports decision-making processes, and ultimately maximises energy yields from renewable energy.
Heat loss detection and building efficiency analysis
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland recently reported that 38% of total energy-related CO2 emissions in Ireland (24% of total national greenhouse gas emissions) are attributed to the heating of buildings (residential, non-residential, and industrial – SEAI, 2022). The necessary solutions to curb these emissions include installing systems such as District Heating and Industrial Heat Pumps and energy efficiency upgrades.
Detection of Heat loss is a key component for the rollout of these projects in Ireland. At MKO, we have recently trialled thermal aerial survey experiments over rooftops of large industrial estates with our new drone, successfully detecting hotspots, heat sources, and areas where energy efficiency has deteriorated from water infiltration. Spatial analysis of the thermal data enables the identification of the exact location and their temperature signatures, providing invaluable insights to facilitate the implementation of systems to capture heat loss and improve energy efficiency in industries.
Ornithology – nest and roost identification
Identifying bird nests and roost sites can occasionally be difficult using traditional surveying methods from a ground-level perspective. Recent experimentation with the thermal imaging drone indicates great potential for enhancing the accuracy of surveys conducted by our Ornithology team. High-resolution thermal mapping outputs acquired from the drone can be used by ornithology experts to accurately locate nests and roosts informed by quantitative and accurate geospatial data.
Ecology – Habitat mapping and invasive species monitoring
MKO has recently been conducting research in Connemara National Park, where the prevalence of invasive rhododendron is problematic for the sustainability of the natural ecosystem. Experimental exercises combine data collected by our ecology team during site walkovers with high-resolution imagery collected with the thermal drone. Geospatial analysis of the drone and field data using machine learning tools indicate that drone surveying will likely be a time-effective, accurate and quantifiable solution for monitoring rhododendron in the future, reducing the requirement for extensive and time-consuming manual surveys in challenging terrain.
The examples described above only scratch the surface of the capabilities offered by the MKO thermal drone. MKO are currently investigating other interesting applications such as:
- mammals and fish population abundance and distribution monitoring;
- water quality and illicit discharge detection;
- gas leakage from landfills;
- archeo-thermography for cultural heritage surveys.