Crane Inspections with Autonomous Drone Software

Crane Inspections with Autonomous Drone Software: Saving Costs, Reducing Risks

19 Jan 2021 Written by Sharon

Crane inspections are a significant cost of doing business in construction.  Crane inspections are so important to the safety of the operator and people in the surrounding area that they are required with ever increasing frequency for compliance with regulations.  In some countries, frequent inspections of the operating mechanisms, hydraulic systems, and hooks and hoist chains are a legal obligation that must be performed daily for “severely” working equipment.  Periodic crane inspections search for any possible point of failure: including loose bolts, cracked sheaves, damaged locking devices, or other faults.  These periodic inspections must by law be performed as often as every three months, but at a minimum of yearly – or any time a crane has been out of service for a significant length of time.


It’s a time-consuming, dangerous and expensive job.  Crane downtime is the greatest expense, leading to project delays and loss of revenue.  Inspectors must travel to a worksite area in order to perform the job: travel time limits the number of inspections that they can complete and makes scheduling inspection times challenging.  During the current pandemic, external professionals are often not allowed on site, and cranes may need to be moved for inspection.  Moving a mobile crane through a dense worksite is potentially dangerous and leads to even more downtime for the equipment.

When they arrive at a site, inspectors must visually inspect every part of the equipment, checking off a list to ensure that each important aspect has been covered and that the equipment is in compliance with regulations.  This requires that the crane be in a reclined position, adding to the time and space required for the inspection.  The inspection itself is a long manual process, and data management remains a challenge.  Safety is a serious issue.  Inspectors are required to climb tower cranes and to walk along the boom to perform a visual inspection.

In many cases, crane inspections are still heavily paper-based, relying on a series of checklists.  Inspectors review previous checklists and, frequently, notebooks of handwritten comments to get information on the history of the equipment. These checklists don’t provide a strong audit trail or history, as inspectors may not be consistent in their methodology.  Data is almost impossible to share, and difficult to analyze; understanding a fault dynamic over time from paper notes is a significant challenge.

Using Autonomous Drone Software

Crane inspections with autonomous drone software are a safer, faster, and more accurate way for inspectors to get the job done. Using vHive’s drone software solution, people on site can plan and execute a fully autonomous drone inspection: the inspector doesn’t need to travel to the site.  Drones fly around the crane, performing a complete survey in less than 30 minutes.  Data is uploaded to the vHive cloud for processing into high resolution imagery.

Using Autonomous Drone Software

With vHive’s AI-driven analysis engine, asset can be analyzed according to individual business needs. AI can identify parts and point out faults, bringing them to the attention of the crane inspector.  High resolution imagery allows inspectors to take a close and extremely detailed look at all of the elements of the crane, maintaining a digital record of the state of the equipment at the time of inspection.   Experts can communicate issues through annotations and reports based on the digital images of the assets.

Crane Inspections with Autonomous Drone Saving Costs, Reducing Risks

The greatest cost of crane inspections is downtime.  The longer a crane is not working, the more revenue is lost and projects delayed.  Using autonomous drone software significantly reduces equipment downtime and reduces jobsite liability.  Autonomous drone inspections allow the crane to remain in situ, significantly reducing total inspection time. In addition, the inspector can be entirely off site while field personnel use the autonomous drone software and an inexpensive, off-the-shelf drone to gather the data: travel time, insurance costs, and risk of injury are reduced or eliminated.   During COVID, when jobsites are often restricted to external personnel, an inspection can be performed without direct contact.

Improving the Outcome

Drone inspections result in high resolution digital imagery of the assets that can easily be analyzed, annotated, shared with stakeholders, and saved for comparison with future inspections.  This data can replace paper checklists with a more secure, efficient and reliable system.

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