Certified Drone Pilot Assesses 200 Light Poles in New Jersey

Photos by George Finlay.  A birds nest adds to the complications but also helps preparations for inspectors.

Inspecting light towers, bridges, power lines, and other difficult-to-access structures has long been facilitated by bucket trucks and binoculars. New drone technology is simplifying and improving the inspection process while also reducing costs. George Finlay, a certified airline transport pilot and certified remote pilot, was hired as a subcontractor to help complete the inspection of over 200, 100-foot high mast light poles in New Jersey from December 2016 to April 2017.

According to AOPA.com, Finley used a DJI Inspire 1 Pro drone with a Zenmuse X5 camera attached to fly near enough to the light poles to take photos, while maintaining a safe distance from the structures. Using this method, cracks and structural defects could be spotted by the lead engineer Bill Mitchell, who operated the camera angle from the ground.

“The resolution was just incredible,” Mitchell told AOPA.com. “You could take such great shots, it was amazing.”

Enthusiasts of the UMV industry say drone inspections are cost-effective and faster than traditional inspections, requiring fewer workers and less time than sending someone high into the air to inspect the structure, which can also be risky. “Remote inspections also benefit residents near the structure, who are not subjected to road closures and detours that would be customary with a conventional inspection. Airspace authorization is occasionally required for drone inspections, Finlay said, “but obtaining the FAA’s approval was straightforward and uncomplicated,” he told AOPA.com

February 7, 2018   

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