Laser Scanning Robot Dog

Laser Scanning Robot Dog

We do a lot of laser scans for our heavy industry clients. Some of them are in not so great environments – think dust, heat, moving equipment etc.

I came across this story yesterday and thought what a great idea!

Boston Dynamics “Spot” with Laser scanner mounted on his back.

Its amazing the different ways new technology will keep us safer and increase our productivity at the same time.

Imagine setting this unit up to scan your construction site overnight when there were no workers on site? The results then automatically updated to your 3D model for tracking progress. You arrive the next morning and have a model showing what has been installed over the past few days, as well as any inconsistencies that need to be reviewed.

Or what about sending it into a gaseous area to find where a leak is coming from. Remote operators could review the live feed showing gas concentrations along with the video feed and could find a leak without putting any person in danger.

These and other units are still being developed, but it won’t be long until we start seeing them pop up on our plants I think.

Drones For Roof Inspections

Drones For Roof Inspections

Roof condition inspections for large and complex structures can be expensive and risky. Regardless of this, developers and owners must still comply with the relevant building codes and regulations. Drone roof inspections are a great way to complete these quicker and safer.

Risks to the traditional roof inspection methods include collapsing sections of roof and falling off ladders or access equipment (especially when you are trying to take photos and notes as well as maintain your balance).

These risks can be eliminated by using drones for the roof inspections. Drones not only eliminates the working at heights risk, but they are also quicker, cheaper, and in my opinion provide a better output.

Unfortunately if there are repairs to be done on a roof, then a drone can not complete these (yet!). However, they are able to highlight areas that are likely to be damaged or dangerous before anyone steps foot on the roof, so any workers can take extra care in these areas.

Here are some of the main benefits of using drones for roof inspections:

1. Provides safe roof inspections

Complex designs, steep angles, damaged or weathered sections all create additional risks on a roof. Drone roof inspections eliminate these risks associated with working at heights.

Collecting data without adding any risk is one of the major benefits of using the drones to inspect commercial or residential roof structures.

drone roof damage inspection
Damage can be inspected without anyone getting on a roof.

2. Drone technology help you to get the job done faster

A traditional roof inspection can take anywhere from a day to many weeks to complete, once you include the set up time of scaffolds, climbing ropes and anchors or elevated work platforms. It can take more than a day before anyone even makes it onto the roof!

Conversely, with a drone, the team can turn up on site and be underway within half an hour. Depending on the size of the roof, the inspection could be completed in under an hour. All the footage and images sent back to the office ready to be reviewed and compiled in a report.

We have completed drone roof inspections of industrial buildings in less than 2 hours from when we turn up to when we leave site.

3. Drone inspections provide better data

As an engineer, I am always looking for better data to make decisions with.

Using a drone for a roof inspection means that you can access almost any part of the roof, and once you are there you can take high definition images, video and even thermal inspections. All of this is recorded with time and location stamps, so if you repeat the inspections every couple of years you can create good trends of the roof condition. This can then be used to plan for maintenance and large cost repair projects (rather than having a catastrophic failure that you weren’t expecting).

The quality of the images provided are excellent, so any engineer or reviewer will have no problem seeing any issues.

drone overview image
From an overall zoomed out image
drone zoom image
To a detailed zoomed in shot of damaged areas.

4. Drone roof inspections are much cheaper

The time savings mentioned in the earlier point translate into significant cost savings.

No scaffold or EWP hire, no gear delivery or set up time and costs.

Instead of taking a couple of guys a number of days, the site inspection is complete in a matter of hours. Other than scaffolding, labour is almost always the next most expensive item.

5. Less interruption to building tenants

Whether you are managing a residential block of units, or a commercial building, there are likely tenants involved. Blocking off large sections of car park or access ways so that work platforms can be maneuvered around is a hassle that is not required when using drones.

Certainly, there may be areas that are excluded during the inspection, but this might be a matter of hours, not days. The risk of a tile coming off and falling on an employee is just not there when using drones.

With all of these benefits, there really is no reason not to start using drones for roof (and other hard to reach) inspections.

Shape Changing Drone

Just a quick post – came across this “DRAGON” drone and thought it was great.

Imagine the possibilities for this in a rescue situation where a drone needed to get through a tight space to reach people.


Drones and the Hierarchy of Control

Drones and the Hierarchy of Control

We were recently involved in a job with one of our heavy industry clients to provide support with auditing the structural condition of a large exhaust stack. The stack was approximately 60 metres high, and had ladders and a number of platforms spaced all the way to the top rim. A great project for a drone!

There had been some concern that the ladder and platform connections may no longer be in a good enough condition to support the required loads – i.e. the weight of the crew that needed to access them.

As part of the risk assessment for the job (and all risk assessments that we take part in), the hierarchy of control was used to determine the best controls for the risks – the most significant risk of course being a fall from heights due to a platform or ladder failure.  For those unfamiliar with the hierarchy, it looks like this:

hierarchy of control

The hierarchy of control – the higher the control type, the more effective it is.

In order to meet the highest control – Elimination – we needed to ensure that no person was required to step foot on any plant that was potentially damaged or unsound.
Previously to achieve this, the site team would engage either a very large EWP (elevated work platform – see image below) or a Crane and Man box.


A sample EWP

Whilst both these options satisfy the ‘Elimination’ criteria, they do have some shortcomings. The area in which this stack was located was quite busy with lots of plant and piping, so there was really only one location where they could be set up. This meant that access all the way around the stack was not possible. This may not always be a serious concern, but in this case it meant that parts of the platform would be missed from the inspection, so the team looked at another option – the Nebo drone inspection team.

A drone inspection is particularly suited to this type of inspection. Ability to access all sides of the stack, with only a very small access area (landing zone). The drones super zoom meant that we could get high definition images of even the smallest details. This made this solution an easy choice, without even getting in to the significant cost savings compared the crane or EWP.

The outcome of the inspection was that there was a number of failures present in the platforms. The site team was right to not let anyone access for a physical inspection. Here is a sample of an image captured by the drone.

Platform image from drone

The platform at the top of the stack – image taken using the Nebo drone


failed connection image from drone

A zoomed in version, showing the failed connection.

The site team can now work on a plan of action to deal with the issues with full information, achieved without putting anyone at risk of falling.

If you have a similar situation that you think might be suitable for a drone, contact us and we can come and have a chat to see if drones are the right choice.

Do you currently spend a lot on EWP hire, or have structural inspections that you keep putting off because they are in the ‘too hard’ basket?

Luke is an engineer and manager of Nebo Project Engineers, as well as a licensed drone pilot. If you want to contact him directly, email

3D Laser Scanning for those hard to reach places – and save time and money while you are there!

3D Laser Scanning for those hard to reach places – and save time and money while you are there!

We have just completed another job for a client utilising 3D laser scanning.

Our client has a large flange that they need to replace, but the flange is more than 30 years old, and there are no reliable drawings. To add to that, the shutdown window to replace the unit that the flange is part of is only a couple of days.

The first plan was to get a blank flange, do a dummy install, match mark all the holes, then send off site to get drilled, then back to site and install again. All this to happen during the shutdown!

We proposed a different option – do a 3D laser scan of the existing installation to verify the location of all the flange bolts (over 200 of them!).
The 3D scanner set up on site

In order to capture all of the bolt locations, we needed to set up in 10 different locations around the flange, but the whole job was completed in under 5 hours on site.

The scans were all registered, then a drawing created that can be used for drilling the new flange.
A great result – the time and effort saved by not having to do a dummy install inside a critical shutdown is huge!

Where could you use 3D laser scanning to save time or measure some hard to reach areas?