There’s been a flurry of activity regarding drones since the beginning of 2016, and it isn’t slowing down. Regulations are still coming into play for some industries, but regarding maintenance , a few rules have been defined.

There’s a number of stories where drones are being used to perform inspections of aircraft, and now in a recent article by TechCrunch, Caterpillar Inc., a major manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, has invested in a drone tech startup Airware.

Airware is a cloud-based software that helps companies analyze all data that their drones collect. These drones collect aerial views of large construction, mining, and insurance companies looking to cut costs and improve worker safety.

CEO of Airware, Jonathon Downey, gave some examples on how these drones are keeping employees safer by keeping them on the ground and letting the drones do the “heavy” lifting.

Insurance companies are using the company’s drone to inspect rooftops for damage, or analyze flood plans around a building. Mining companies are using it to track how much material is coming from a quarry, moving to a stockpile, and getting out to customers- all without having to send workers in their to get the data.

According to a press statement, Caterpillar is working with Airware to offer drones services to its own customers, and to enable large dealers of the company’s equipment to also offer drone services to their customers.

By Caterpillar and Airware teaming up, that puts Airware above the competition by working with a huge U.S. contractor to keep employees safer and businesses operating at higher efficiency.

Benefits to Drones On-Site

Airware is looking to accomplish what has already begun in the maintenance sector which is to protect our facility employees from dangerous safety inspections.

Facility maintenance in general is evolving from paper based reporting to computerized software and automation, such as Machine Learning- the ability to detect an error that isn’t humanly possible to track with the mounds of data that is computed.

So, are drones the future of maintenance? Drones are being used to aid technicians in checking assets in hard to reach places at a faster and safer rate than doing it manually. Every maintenance engineer wrestles with areas like roofs, outside vents, or cracks in the foundation.

These hard to reach places can:

  1. Prevent engineers from finishing all asset checks in a timely manner
  2. Endanger the engineer and potentially cost the company money
  3. Increase labor costs
  4. Go without maintenance for months if the assets are not reachable

Drones can become a pivotal role in maintenance assistance and keep labor costs down for companies.

Engineers and Drones Working Together

The ability to track and access your assets quickly and effectively is the lifeline to any well-maintained facility.

Drones I believe in the future will be a better aid to technicians in the improvements of safety for workers, aerial views of assets, and even 3-D projections of assets.

However, I do think that technicians have the upper hand by being able to assess the situation with an asset, document it with computerized software, and then figure out the right course of action where it may take a drone ten times to get the right picture for diagnosis.

The best solution for an engineer is a CMMS. By implementing a CMMS into your facility, you can preserve assets, keep things running in optimum condition, and help insure that assets will have maximum life expectancy.

This system will also help manage anticipated failures allowing your staff to budget and plan, while still saving time and money in the short and long term.

CMMS takes the guess work out of the equation for technicians by tracking all work, documenting failures and successes of assets, and figuring out next steps to keep the facility running properly.