We’re going to be launching a new course on aerial thermography soon, and we wrote this blog post to explain why we created the course, and what our goals are for this new effort.
First and foremost, we want to support drone pilots. It can be a real hustle to find full-time work flying an sUAS, and whether you’re a solopreneur or part of a larger organization, the more skill sets you have under your belt, the more marketable your services are.
Aerial thermography is a growing field for drone pilots, and one that may help you win a contract over your competitors. The primary goal of this course is to get UAV pilots up and running with aerial thermography so they can add it to their list of skill sets when looking for work.
In addition to helping you find work, one of the great things about aerial thermography is that one of its applications is to keep people safe by identifying latent heat that might be invisible to the naked eye. So being a part of promoting drone use that helps people, and training pilots to potentially help save lives and keep people from harm, was also a factor in our decision to partner with AeroVista Innovations to create this course.
Keep reading to dive deeper into the details of what our Aerial Thermography 101 course will teach you, and how you might be able to leverage more business by adding aerial thermographic skills to your drone pilot resume.
Before we go any further it’s worth noting that this post, and the course itself, will be of special interest for:
- UAV pilots and businesses that use UAVs looking to expand their service offerings by adding aerial thermographical capabilities to their toolbox for inspection applications.
- Fire, Law Enforcement, Public Safety & Emergency Response teams who want to integrate UAV technology for Search and Rescue, HAZMAT, Fire Command Control & 360-degree Aerial Awareness, Crime Scene Investigation, and other Emergency Response and Law Enforcement applications.
- Commercial drone pilots with at least 15-20 hours sUAS operating experience; pilots who have flown larger systems with average takeoff weights of between 10 and 15 lbs (4.5kg-7kg); and pilots comfortable flying in close proximity (<30ft, 9m) from obstacles, structures and terrain.
But of course, even if none of the above criteria apply to you and you’re just curious about aerial thermography, this post will definitely be of interest.
What Is Thermography?
Thermography is the translation of thermal energy (heat) into visible light in order to analyze a particular object or scene. An aerial thermographer uses a thermal camera to measure that translation as it’s happening.
What’s the Size of the Aerial Thermography Market, and What Are Its Biggest Sectors?
The market for aerial thermography is rapidly growing. There is a huge opportunity right now for sUAS pilots to get in on the ground floor, and be among the first to offer this service.
A study from Navigant Research predicts a global market of $6 billion dollars for thermal UAS services by 2014, up from $135.7 million. It’s important to note that this projection is strictly for one application (Thermal Inspections of Transmission and Distribution) and does not take into account all of the other applications in which aerial thermography can be used—meaning that there will most likely be much more money to be made in aerial thermography than just the $6 billion found by the study.
Power companies are also onboarding UAV operations for conducting inspections, and we can only anticipate this sector growing as well. Those pilots with aerial thermography under their belts will be at the top of the list of candidates considered for these and similar positions.
How Can I Make Money Doing Aerial Thermography?
With smaller, lighter, and less expensive thermal sensors on the market, the applications for thermal imaging are continuing to take off.
Here is how how aerial thermography is most commonly being used by both private and public organizations:
Top Industrial Safety Applications/Use Cases:
- Energy/Utilities – Solar Farms, Wind Turbines, Power Lines
- Communications – Cell Towers, Radio Transmission Towers, Microwave Towers
- Infrastructure – HVAC (Heating Ventilation, Air Conditioning), Roofs
Top Public Safety Applications/Use Cases:
- Search and Rescue – SARS
- Hazardous Material Inspection – HAZMAT
Who’s Teaching the Class?
Brendan Stewart is a seasoned aerial thermographer and the Co-Founder and lead education program director at AeroVista Innovations (AVI).
He oversees the engineering and pilot strategy for AeroVista, and he also holds an FAA Sport Pilot Certificate, Remote Pilot Certificate, and has been flying model aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles since childhood.
If you’re wondering about Brendan’s experience level, suffice to say that he’s logged a whopping 2500+ UAV flight hours so far in his career, and shows no signs of slowing down.
Here is Brendan getting ready to record one of his units for the course:
Course Design and the Thought Behind It
The primary goal of this course is to get UAV pilots up and running with aerial thermography so they can add it to their list of skill sets when looking for work.
Here is a description of Aerial Thermography 101, written by the instructor, Brendan Stewart:
This course was designed from a pilot’s perspective. The idea was to take your average UAV pilot with zero experience in thermography, and prepare them to fly effective thermography operations.
The course breaks into 2 sections. The 1st section explains the theory of how infrared is radiated, how to effectively capture and sense it, and how to provide value for your client before demonstrating various use cases.
There’s not a perfect checklist or approved process for thermography. The outputs are highly dependent on what questions your client is trying to answer:
Are they looking for just a heat signature from a leaking window? Or do they want to know which part of a roof membrane is leaking, how many square feet are affected, what material needs to be replaced, and how much it’ll cost?
Thermography presents a continuum of challenges, usually starting with HVAC on the less challenging end (i.e., “show me where the leak is”); to power infrastructure, which can be a more challenging (i.e., “show me the insulators over 100 degrees”); to roofing, which has an output product that’s a full report, only using thermography as a tiny fraction of the report.
Understanding the theory arms you with the tools to determine what missions to take on, how to articulate capabilities to clients, and how to navigate the limitations of the equipment to acquire the data your client needs to provide value.
Do I Need to Buy Anything to Take The Course?
Nope. While the course primarily uses DJI products (ZenMuse XT Thermal Sensor and DJI Inspire) there are a wealth of other aircraft and sensor configurations. The DJI Inspire and ZenMuse XT that are used during this training allow you to capture accurate thermal data relatively easily and are representative of the capabilities of the majority of aerial thermography systems.
Want to learn more, and be the first to know when the course launches? You can join our pre-enrollment list and get a special sneak peek of the curriculum RIGHT NOW by clicking this link.
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