drone in sky

Using Drones in Facilities Management

There are numerous applications and benefits for drones in facilities management.   March 7, 2024

By Jeff Wardon, Jr., Assistant Editor

Technology has streamlined and aided in many facilities operations; however, one type of technology is taking facility managers’ capabilities to new heights: drones. These small, unmanned aircraft can assist facility managers by providing views of places they could not safely get to. Explaining more about drones and their benefits is Gene Huntington, Solutions Coach at Steward Green LLC, who will be presenting the session “Drones in Real-World Facility Applications” at NFMT 2024 in Baltimore from March 12 to 14. 

FacilitiesNet: What are the applications for drones in facilities management?   

Gene Huntington: The sky is the limit, but what we do mostly for facility managers is to show them how to use the technology to do building envelope inspections. They can also do rooftop inspections, and there are many uses for drones. We can show facility directors how they can easily find, without boots on the top of the roof or climbing up on structures, they could find membrane leaks or potential membrane leaks. They could also spot very voltage hot spots or even heat loss.  

The other application for facility managers is mapping. So, you take pictures and videos with drones. There is so much more topography mapping, so showing different elevations in the ground when they are doing a capital project. Or even doing orthomosaic mapping on a consistent basis to gather data and progress on construction projects and things like that. 

FN: Why are drones better for building envelope inspections?   

Huntington: They are safer than sending somebody up on the roof and get the job done quicker, so it is more efficient. For example, we can do an inspection on a college campus like the New Jersey Institute of Technology where there are 40 buildings on the campus. It can literally do that inspection in one night, gather the data, and then it analyzes it over a couple of days. There is no way they could do that with boots on the ground. It would take them weeks and weeks to do that without a drone.

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So, just the efficiency, safety and quality are better because we are seeing things that cannot be seen with boots on the ground like the membrane leaks underneath. 

FN: What Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) compliance issues exist for using drones?  

Huntington: There are a lot of them, but I’ll go over a few of the compliance issues. There are airspace issues like being able to fly in certain airspaces. Then there are other airspaces that you have to get additional authorizations from the FAA. You also cannot fly beyond the line of sight or over a crowd of people. That is OK. We can still use drones as a tool. Also, you must have a Part 107 license from the FAA to fly a drone these days. 

To learn more about what facility managers can do with drone technology, be sure to check out Huntington’s session at NFMT 2024 in Baltimore. Register for NFMT here. Facility managers can also register on-site day of the show. 

Jeff Wardon, Jr. is the assistant editor for the facilities market. 


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