COMMENT: Drone technology continues to build momentum
Alexander Pieri is the editor of Facilities Management Middle East magazine.
While the sale and use of recreational drones in the GCC has diminished in the wake of stricter regulation following cases of misuse and public disruption, the commercial application of drone technology continues to build momentum.
Fuelled by an increasing number of certification programmes covering the use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), this niche market is gaining traction across a variety of sectors.
One such arena that could greatly benefit from its adoption is the realm of facilities management.
In the Middle East, commercial drones have already seen deployment as surveying tools by real estate firms and have proven useful in asset evaluation operations, particularly in the inspection of buildings.
A close fly-by of a structure can provide valuable visual data that assists engineers in ascertaining structural integrity. There has also been interest in developing aerial advertising, though the concept is still largely in its infancy.
The most obvious application of drones in FM would lie in security.
Similar to its reconnaissance role in the military, a single drone would be able to provide its operator with an aerial view of an entire facility.
Depending on the model, a drone could also trump traditional CCTV cameras that are restricted to a static position. If the pilot spots something fishy on the monitor, they can bring the drone down from above to check blind spots.
The technology’s agility also allows it to be deployed within hard to reach places of a building’s HVAC system.
While more advanced buildings may have planned ahead and installed sensors throughout their infrastructure, a robotic device equipped with sensors could prove useful in scouting a duct before going through the hassle of getting a technical service team inside.
In more mature markets, remote piloted aircraft have been deployed as delivery services. While it is difficult to gauge to what extent drones could help the supply chain, the idea is that they could help deliver supplies to active projects throughout the region, whenever the call arises. It would certainly be faster than any delivery truck on the road.
Another arena where drones could prove useful within FM is with waste management. The technology’s potential for environmental monitoring is undeniable. If you take the Total Odour Management System of the Dubai Municipality’s STP department for example, and link it to a drone, the unit would likely be able to cover a wider area.
Simply put, it’s always reassuring for the worker on the ground to be able to count on support from the eye in the sky.