Why real-time visibility is the next big thing for unmanned survey projects

James Arnott, Business Development Manager – TEXO Survey & Inspection (DSI)

Increasing pressure from public health, cost efficiency and safety concerns are playing a big role in the shift to real-time video for survey and inspection.

Precision survey data is critical to projects of all types. From sea defences and oil and gas platforms to drainage tunnels and listed building maintenance, surveyors, inspectors and planners need to be able to see objects in detail so they can make accurate and informed decisions about what happens next.

Unmanned airborne vehicle (UAV) surveys have already made their mark in this space. Removing people from potentially dangerous survey areas, UAVs collect accurate data and images quickly and efficiently, and work alongside traditional survey methods such as LiDAR to provide a complete picture. Supported by sophisticated software that renders the data in whatever way is best for the client – including interrogable 3D images – this method of surveying is becoming the standard approach for many industrial, environmental and heritage projects.

The bonus of streaming technology

The next obvious step for state-of-the-art surveying is to produce a real-time video stream so that people who can’t get to the site can see exactly what’s happening, when it’s happening. This type of livestreaming is becoming more common, and brings a number of benefits, which we look at below. The key for UAV pilots is to integrate real-time streaming with standard survey equipment to ensure that the ability to collect precise data is maintained while sending good quality images back to the client that are useful to shape the survey while its occurring.

The benefits of live streaming technology

Making use of real-time streaming technology brings a number of measurable project benefits:

Reduced presence on-site – with live streaming available, clients do not need to send as many people to site when a survey is taking place. This saves time and also contributes to a healthier environment, as people are not travelling as much.

Improved health and safety – UAV surveys already improve health and safety on site by reducing the need for working at height or exposing personal to confined spacing for example. Adding a real-time streaming option means that surveyors and project managers can see footage of the parts of sites that are difficult or dangerous to access and significantly reduces the potential for on-site incidents.

Greater project efficiency – seeing issues in real-time makes for a significantly more efficient project. Decisions can be made faster, surveys can expand immediately to include new areas of concern or to focus on particular areas, and it reduces the requirement to go back out on site for future inspections.

Better inspection procedures – for sites that need regular inspection, real-time image streaming means that inspections are more accurate, faster and more cost-efficient. It streamlines processes, allows key personnel to see inspection images immediately and allows more accurate and useful maintenance and repair plans to be built.

Training – this technology offers a fantastic opportunity to train new staff. There are times, of course, when being on site is beneficial, but in terms of understanding the survey and inspection process, learning what to look out for and how to diagnose and approach particular problems, having access to live video footage is an incredibly useful training and learning tool. Also, our team’s competency can be assessed in real life situations with reducing the need of travelling to sites.

Remote worker protection – this is a critical health and safety responsibility for companies of all types. With accurate GPS built into the system, live streaming equipment allows you to make sure your lone workers are safe when they are working in remote or hazardous areas. Most importantly, you will be able to see immediately if your worker is injured or has any issues, allowing you to alert emergency services faster.

Livestream in action:
Emergency Inspection of bridge and buildings post storm

TEXO Survey & Inspection (DSI) was commissioned to mobilise within 24 hours to a farm bridge near Hull. The bridge and an adjacent house had suffered from erosion and other damages during a rise in river levels – the bridge was under risk of collapse and the house was also in danger.

We delivered:

  • Emergency inspection and streaming
  • LiDAR survey
  • 3D structural scanning
  • Photogrammetry
  • Orthomosaic

The key for the client was being able to instantly view structure and provide feedback to the site team. This enabled decisions on the course of action to be discussed by multiple parties within the client organisation and stakeholders that were not able to get to site, meaning the client could maximise their internal resources. We delivered the full scope of the project in just one day.

What to expect from live streaming in industrial projects

With proven technology in place, we expect project managers to add real-time images as a requirement when they ask for survey and inspection support. The built-in time, cost, efficiency and safety benefits, alongside the ability to make faster, more informed decisions, means that this will become a standard part of client tenders in the very near future.

Delivering a wider range of information and able to stream across continents, the best technology will become a ‘must’ across all sectors – we are already seeing increased demand from the sectors we regularly service, plus additional industries that can see the immediate benefits of real-time streaming.

When looking for a survey or inspection team that offers real-time streaming, it’s important to select teams that have experience in integrating live streaming to their UAV or traditional survey methods. Integration is important – it’s far more difficult to hire a survey team and a separate live streaming team – so you want to look for partners that understand how to use the technology to your best advantage.

As demand increases, providers will begin to look at live streaming technology and begin to get up to speed on how to deliver the best package. TEXO Survey & Inspection already uses TEXO Livestream technology within its survey options – and works closely with the Livestream team to innovate and build on our successes to deliver quality images, data and commercial benefits to clients.

To find out more about how we can deliver a full survey and real-time image service to your project, contact us today:

Why real-time visibility is the next big thing for unmanned survey projects