Using Drones to Inspect Urban Building Façades
Why is this important? What are the potential implications for the built environment?
Many cities require the owners of multistory buildings to regularly inspect their façades, looking for problems that may lead to injury or property damage — loose masonry at risk of crashing to the sidewalk below, for instance.
These investigations are typically conducted in two stages. In the first, inspectors located on the ground or in adjacent buildings use binoculars to conduct a visual inspection. In the second, they study the façade up close, performing physical tests as needed.
The second stage often requires costly and disruptive interventions to the building and the surrounding neighborhood. Since many buildings lack the equipment needed to safely lower inspectors down the façade, owners frequently erect scaffolding that can block signage, views, and pedestrian pathways — sometimes for weeks on end, depending on the building’s size.
Finding a way to improve the first stage of the inspection in order to shorten the duration of the second could make these studies much cheaper and less invasive. It could also improve inspector safety, reducing the need for climbing around scaffolding or rappeling down the side of buildings.