CLEVELAND, Ohio – Tremco Roofing & Building Maintenance has launched a cadre of SkyBEAM drones that offers an entirely new way for companies to keep an eye on and pinpoint potential problems in their factories, warehouses and offices.
Tremco SkyBEAM UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) let building inspectors virtually swoop around and fly over the structures they're examining, and gives them the unprecedented ability to spot energy leaks and structural weaknesses they might not otherwise see.
The drones, developed with and tested for the past 18 months by Industrial SkyWorks of Toronto, recently received the Federal Aviation Administration's first exemption for nighttime commercial flights in the U.S. That means Tremco, through an exclusive relationship with Industrial SkyWorks, can now conduct infrared scans of buildings at night to look for thermal hot spots that are harder to pick up during the day, when buildings soak up sunshine.
The FAA also approved SkyBEAM UAVs flying during the day to check out rooftop damage and look for deteriorating façades or other safety issues.
"There's a real market demand for it," because it's so much faster, cheaper and safer than the way things are done now, said Robb Chauvin, Tremco's executive director of inspection services.
Beachwood-based Tremco, founded when Cleveland industrialist William Treuhaft opened a small roofing materials manufacturing plant in 1928, is owned by RPM International Inc. and employs more than 2,000 people worldwide.
It also owns three SkyBEAM UAVs, developed from an idea that started here in Cleveland.Tremco Roofing & Building Maintenance
Most companies check for energy leaks by hiring technicians to walk across their roofs at night, armed with infrared scans to pick up escaping heat. Many façade inspections require workers to use rooftop cranes, erect scaffolding or climb out onto window-watching platforms to visually examine buildings.
Not only is SkyBEAM faster and less expensive, its images are more accurate and detailed than conventional building mapping methods, especially when multiplied by all the buildings at universities or hospitals.
"If you've got multiple buildings on your property," that means having to climb up and inspect each of them in turn, Chauvin said. "It's an ideal situation to use a drone with a very large client. There's really no comparison."
SkyBEAM, on the other hand, can be controlled by a two-person team that stays on the ground; a licensed pilot to fly the UAV, and a second person to keep an eye on the drone as it's zipping around overhead. A single drone can cover "about 1 million square feet of roof in little less than an hour," he said.
The drones, which weigh about 5 pounds and are the size of a hula hoop when fully extended, are remarkably agile, and can fly horizontally across roofs or vertically up to 400 feet (about 40 stories), Chauvin said.
Flying a pre-programmed course over a building, the drones can reach speeds of 25 mph, and maintain their flight patterns in 25-mph winds and gusts of up to 50 mph. When not being used, they collapse into a more portable size that enables them to be trucked to the site.This infrared scan of an unidentified building shows the kind of image a SkyBEAM UAV drone would pick up.Tremco Roofing & Building Maintenance
SkyBEAM UAVs are equipped with high-definition (HD) video and thermographic (infrared) cameras to create a comprehensive, interactive report that facility owners, managers, and technicians, can share through a cloud-based application.
Tremco can also make a two-dimensional or three-dimensional virtual model of the building that can help the company pinpoint potential problems.
The UAVs are equipped with "an exceptionally high resolution video camera that can easily read the fine print on a warranty from 50 feet," SkyBEAM said. "This camera can map potential building problems, such as gaps or tears in the roof, tiny cracks or movement in the façade, deteriorating concrete, and the need for appropriate rooftop safety equipment."
The infrared camera detects temperature fluctuations that could indicate poor or missing window seals or wet rooftop insulation, which might be driving up heating or cooling bills and can require major capital repairs down the road.
"Using SkyBEAM to gather building data is the best solution overall," said Paul Sheehy, Tremco Roofing's vice president of sales, in a statement. "We program the UAV to fly to a precise height, do the mapping and return.. SkyBEAM enables us to find problems for our customers that would have been virtually impossible to detect before, and without risking people's safety."
In cities like New York and Chicago, where strict façade ordinances require more frequent inspections of aging structures, SkyBEAM can conduct multi-building analyses in less time and with fewer people than other roofing companies.
Chauvin said the drones are not expected to replace human workers, because people are still needed to identify and analyze the specialized images the UAVs send back.
"SkyBEAM provides a dramatic leap forward, improving safety, efficiency and analysis," Sheehy said. "It gives decision makers visual evidence of where their building is losing energy, especially from areas that were difficult to scan before. SkyBEAM will help them improve their facility maintenance planning and budgeting, is the safest way to conduct nighttime infrared scanning, and is a huge benefit to our field technicians and contractors who need to locate and repair rooftop and facade damage."
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