City Drone Keeps Inspectors Safe – Staff Finds New Uses For UAS
Falls are among the leading causes of workplace injuries and fatalities, and accounted for 17 percent of all on-the-job deaths in 2017, according to data compiled by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 887 lives lost in 2017 marked an all-time high in the 26-year history of the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.
Deputy Building Official David Gilson, a certificated commercial pilot with more than 700 hours logged, and also a certificated remote pilot, said it nonetheless took a little doing to convince city leaders that an unmanned aircraft provides a cost-effective and safe alternative to climbing ladders to inspect construction projects. While contractors are required by law to provide access to high places on job sites, inspectors often arrive when nobody else is around to hold a ladder. That used to be a problem for all concerned.
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“There were some places we just couldn’t access safely,” Gilson recalled in a recent telephone interview. “Unfortunately, things weren’t being looked at as well as they could be.”
Gilson, now in his fifth year on the city staff, said the arrival of Building Development Director Kevin Powell marked a shift in attitude from being unwilling to risk the potential downsides of drones, including privacy concerns, to being willing to “stick a toe in the water.”
Gilson drafted a policy on drone use by city officials long before the first drone flew earlier this year, and wound up poaching the city arborist from another department and setting her up with training. That’s Shannon Brewer, who brought no aviation experience to her new role as a remote pilot, but has become an accomplished, careful, and enthusiastic pilot of quadcopters such as the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom.
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“I’m the local tree hugger,” Brewer explained.
Her own interest in drones was inspired in part by an enforcement case involving illegal deforestation, regulations that were difficult to enforce without a very expensive survey conducted by contractors. Continue reading about how drones are the safer option for inspections.