How It Works: Tough project terrain? We've got a drone for that.
How It Works: Tough project terrain? We've got a drone for that.
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How It Works: Tough project terrain? We've got a drone for that.
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Unmanned aerial vehicles fly the missions, with software capturing information and charting courses for future use.

Steve Santovasi is more than an information management professional and geospatial services manager at Burns & McDonnell. He’s a pilot of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones), and oversees the company’s UAV program. When it comes to knowing when, where and what the  best of UAV technology is on a project, he has the answer — and why.

“About 85 percent of all the data in the world can be tied to a specific location on the planet,” he says. “My team manages where that place is and what data gets assigned to it.”

UAVs fall under that category.

Burns & McDonnell’s growing fleet is composed of different UAV types that are assigned based on what data is needed.

When seeking data from a large area, a corridor or plant site, the firm uses a fixed-wing drone. On the other hand, when looking into a specific place, such as a tower or nest, the team uses a quadcopter that has rotating blades and can hover.

A benefit of the drone technology is the ability to tailor each flying mission to the exact needs of a project by switching out cameras operated by software in a computer set up for each flight mission. The computer tells the aircraft how high and what direction to go, and where to take photographs. The software captures camera direction and coordinates and logs each flight for use in the future.

The company recently sent a team to North Carolina to inspect two solar farms. Given the mission, the selected UAV had thermal imaging capabilities to determine the functionality of thousands of panels. 

“Using UAVs is more than a trend,” Santovasi says. “Eventually this is going to be a solid cornerstone of most engineering companies.”

For more information, contact Steve Santovasi at 203-294-2361.

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