Field service can be a dangerous job for technicians who service sky-high equipment such as cell towers, wind turbines, or oil rigs. And field service can be a time-intensive job for technicians who have to cover a lot of ground while working.
Drones offer a unique way of helping field service professionals, and currently, the agriculture and energy sectors could benefit the most from this new technology. Thanks to heat and sonar sensors along with a high-resolution camera, drones can see what the human eye on the ground cannot.
Here are tasks these “mini-helicopters” can accomplish that would make a field service technician’s job much easier and safer.
Observing Large Areas
Drones can easily and quickly do tasks that would be long and tiresome for a technician. From the air, a drone can survey a large bit of land in 20 minutes; that same task would take a technician on the ground hours to complete. In the agriculture sector, drones can be used to observe farmland, check irrigation levels, and monitor crop yields. While a field service worker in the solar energy sector may have to check each solar panel individually with a hand-held device, “a drone easily can pick out a broken or malfunctioning solar panel from a field of thousands,” according to a New York Times report.
Inspecting Dangerous Areas
For technicians who have traditionally worked on hard-to-reach or dangerous equipment, such as inspecting power lines or oil and gas pipelines, sending a drone up in the air is a much safer option than sending a person. With drones, technicians will be less exposed to hazardous working conditions and locations.
Data Mining and Synthesizing
Drones use a combination of high-resolution, real-time cameras and sensors to record data that can be downloaded into a complete report for the technician. For example, drones can see cracks in wind turbines and check pipelines for structural weaknesses. These detailed reports allow technicians to immediately locate problems, and efficiently work to solve them. Like big data, drones can help improve first-time fix rates, as the data they provide lets technicians know what repairs and parts are necessary before arriving on-site.
Drones are set up to send the data they collect to the cloud. They fit perfectly into a cloud-based service ecosystem, making them ideal companions for field service automation solutions. Cloud-connected field service call management software can act as a bridge between the data collected by the drone and the information your field service worker receives.
Using a drone means a smarter allocation of resources. In the energy sector, renting helicopters to survey equipment such as wind turbines or smokestacks can cost thousands of dollars. Commercial drones, which cost $300 are a much more cost-effective option. The speed at which drones gather data, also contributes to cost savings for both field service companies and customers, because drones can help get broken equipment back up and running faster.
Image by Yann Caradec