News  |  4/12/2023  |  Jade Scotney

Aerial Insights: Top 10 Tips For Drone Surveying Chimney Stacks, Conduits, And Pipes

As industries evolve, so do the challenges of maintaining the structural integrity of critical components like chimney stacks, conduits, and pipes. Traditional inspection methods for chimney stack repair, and elements like it, have long been associated with challenges – they are time-consuming, expensive, and carry inherent safety risks for the employees involved. However, drone technology now offers a safer, more efficient, and cost-effective alternative, and in this post, we’ll uncover our top tips for utilising drone surveys in the maintenance and repair of chimney stacks, conduits, and pipes.


What Are The Challenges Associated With Surveying Chimney Stacks, Conduits, And Pipes?


Surveying chimney stacks, conduits, and pipes presents a set of unique challenges, primarily stemming from the confined and often hazardous nature of these industrial structures, with the main challenge being accessibility. Many chimney stacks and pipes are located in complex environments, making physical access difficult and dangerous for traditional inspection methods. The tight spaces within conduits further exacerbate this issue, limiting the mobility of human inspectors.


Another challenge is the diversity of materials and conditions encountered. Chimney stacks, conduits, and pipes are constructed from various materials, each with its own set of characteristics and challenges for inspection. Harsh environmental conditions, such as exposure to corrosive substances, coastal locations, or extreme temperatures, can impact the integrity of these structures over time, adding complexity to the surveying process. Further, the internal conditions of conduits and pipes, including the presence of contaminants or debris, pose additional hurdles, and ensuring a comprehensive assessment of these interiors requires specialised techniques and tools.


Clearly, safety is a paramount concern. The potential for exposure to hazardous substances or structural weaknesses in industrial settings demands meticulous planning and adherence to safety protocols. The need for inspections in live operational environments adds an extra layer of complexity, requiring careful coordination to minimise disruptions and risks. Overcoming these challenges requires a multidisciplinary approach that combines technical expertise, safety protocols, and innovative inspection methods to ensure accurate and reliable surveys of chimney stacks, conduits, and pipes.


How Can The Use Of Drones Help With Surveying Chimney Stacks, Conduits, And Pipes?


The use of drones addresses many challenges associated with traditional inspection methods of surveying chimney stacks, conduits, and pipes. Drones provide unparalleled accessibility to intricate and hard-to-reach structures, mitigating the risks associated with manual inspections, by effortlessly navigating confined spaces and intricate environments, and eliminating the need for personnel to undertake potentially hazardous tasks.


Equipped with advanced imaging technologies such as high-resolution cameras and LiDAR sensors, drones capture detailed data, offering a comprehensive view of the structural integrity and potential issues within chimney stacks, conduits, and pipes. The real-time monitoring capabilities of drones enhance efficiency, allowing operators to adapt flight plans on the spot and ensuring thorough coverage.


Drones excel in environments with harsh conditions or contaminants, providing a safer and more accurate alternative to human inspection. The ability to capture 3D models and thermal images enhances the precision of data collected, enabling early detection of structural weaknesses, corrosion, or other anomalies.


In essence, drones revolutionise the surveying of industrial structures by combining accessibility, safety, and advanced sensing capabilities. Their integration not only streamlines the inspection process, but also contributes to the overall safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of maintenance strategies for chimney stacks, conduits, and pipes.


Our Top 10 Tips For Drone Surveying Chimney Stacks, Conduits, And Pipes


  • Understand regulatory compliance. Understand the local regulations and restrictions regarding drone flights in industrial areas. Obtain the necessary permits and approvals before conducting surveys.


  • Conduct a thorough site assessment. This will help you to identify potential obstacles, hazards, and any specific challenges related to the structures you are surveying. This includes assessing wind conditions, weather, and nearby structures.


  • Select the right drone and sensors for the survey. Consider factors such as payload capacity, flight time, and stability, and equip the drone with sensors like high-resolution cameras or LiDAR depending on the survey requirements.


  • Implement safety protocols by establishing clear operating procedures. Ensure the survey area is secured, and all personnel are informed about the drone operation. Maintain a safe distance from structures and adhere to safety guidelines.


  • Optimise flight planning. The flight plan should cover the entire structure, using waypoints to ensure comprehensive coverage and plan for the optimal altitude to capture detailed imagery, while maintaining safety.


  • Account for lighting conditions. Plan surveys during optimal lighting conditions to capture clear and detailed images., so consider the position of the sun to avoid shadows that could obscure important details.


  • Utilise obstacle avoidance systems. If possible, activate obstacle avoidance systems on the drone to navigate around structures or other potential obstructions to enhance the safety and success of the survey.


  • Monitor battery levels. Keep a close eye on the drone’s battery levels and plan the survey to accommodate the necessary coverage within the available flight time. Have spare batteries on hand for extended surveys.


  • Ensure data integrity. Regularly check the data being captured during the survey to ensure its quality and integrity. This includes real-time monitoring of images or data feeds and addressing any issues promptly.


  • Post-processing and analysis. After the survey, engage in thorough post-processing and analysis of the data. Utilise specialised software to create accurate 3D models or detailed reports, extracting valuable insights for maintenance or further assessment. 


These tips aren’t where it ends, and when you’re planning chimney stack repair, or maintenance of conduits and pipes, it is always worth having an experienced, professional drone operator working with you. Qualified drone pilots can get the highest quality and best results, and they’ll have encountered similar situations – and even if they haven’t, they’ll be able to advise you according to their experience, for the best possible outcome. If you’re planning a chimney stack repair, or similar, then get in touch. Our experienced surveyors have access to the latest surveying equipment and technology, and we offer a cost-effective solution with pinpoint accuracy.