Bridge inspections are a strong example of the value of drone technology, and with over 100,000 linear feet of rail bridge inspected, HAZON Solutions is proving the point.
VA-based HAZON Solutions (“HAZON”) was commissioned by Norfolk Southern to conduct the most comprehensive drone-based inspections in the industry. The stunning part of the milestone is the speed with which it was achieved – in just 18 months, HAZON has conducted more than 64 bridge inspections across the eastern US.
“HAZON’s inspections include complete coverage of the entire bridge using high definition (HD) still frame, video and thermal imaging cameras. HAZON inspection teams fly within 15 feet of the rail bridges to capture the highest quality pictures possible.,” says the company. “Additionally, HAZON inspection teams utilize proprietary techniques to fly under and inside bridge spans, collecting imagery from angles previously unavailable.”
Bridge inspections provide a dramatic example of the value of implementing drone technology in industry. Using a drone is not only faster and safer for inspectors, it provides critical data that might not otherwise be available.
“When we say comprehensive, we truly mean it,” said COO and co-founder Sean Cushing, CDR USN (ret).
“We’re not just getting exterior shots, we’re flying underneath and inside the voids of bridges to make
sure critical load bearing areas are covered from every possible angle. We also capture shots of every
single bottom lateral and gusset plate; best of all, we don’t consume any track time. We collect actionable information and trains keep moving.”
HAZON is a commercial drone operations and software company that started by inspecting power transmission lines in the energy sector. Based on experience in flying commercial drone missions, they developed drone fleet management software known as the HAZON DMS; they also provide training and consulting services to large enterprises helping them to implement drone programs.
“This milestone is great for HAZON, but also great for the entire drone industry,” said CEO and co-founder David A. Culler, Jr. CAPT USN (ret.) “Norfolk Southern has proven that UAS technology is a safe and effective tool for critical infrastructure inspections. The experience and expertise that HAZON has gained on the UAS inspection front have been invaluable; it has allowed us to move beyond proof-of-concept and into the transition period of integrating drones into the daily workflow. It’s a very exciting time for the entire drone ecosystem and the customers we serve.”
Ed Hine, VP of Marketing and Business Development for HAZON tells DRONELIFE that the industry is clearly entering a stage of high volume production. “We see a strong trend towards operationalization and view that as proof that the unmanned industry has matured to become a real value add to any major infrastructure owner,” says Hine.
As large industry players make drone technology the standard for infrastructure inspections, the industry will expand – and continue to innovate – to meet their needs. While U.S. regulations currently prohibit some commercial applications requiring flight beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), the FAA has indicated that regularizing BVLOS flight will be prioritized, further expanding the potential for commercial inspection applications.