TÜV SÜD is currently evaluating the use of drones to assist in monitoring and assessing various major infrastructure around the world. Here, in Seoul, South Korea, we’re at the forefront and have already completed a pilot project demonstrating that drones provide substantial support. But it will still take some time in development before they become standard equipment.
We used drones for a damage analysis on the Dongjak Bridge, which is 1,245 meters long. It’s at full capacity, with six traffic lanes and a subway train down the middle. A pilot flew the drone up to 70 meters in the air, where it autonomously scanned the entire bridge. Afterwards, it was manually flown to a few specific spots that I, as an inspector, can only get to with great difficulty. The drone is consistently my second set of eyes—I can see even better without having to laboriously climb scaffolding or use lift trucks, both of which can be a bit risky, to reach otherwise inaccessible areas.
Of course there are challenges: strong winds, for instance, or signal interference. But those are trivial compared to the advantages: the inspections go faster and are safer, aside from which the drone supplies a lot of important data. I can use scatter plots to create 3D models, which allow us reproduce the condition of infrastructure objects over a longer timeframe, for instance in regions prone to earthquakes or flooding. In the future, experts around the world will be able to participate in the inspections by analyzing data delivered in real time.
For me, this is a fantastic, modern approach—that we at TÜV SÜD are able to deploy new technologies to provide added value to our clients.