Uncategorized  |  4/09/2023  |  Jade Scotney

How Does a Thermal Imaging Drone Survey Work?

How Does a Thermal Imaging Drone Survey Work? Thermal imaging harnesses infrared camera technology to identify minute temperature variations on surfaces. Conventionally, handheld thermal imaging cameras were employed for diverse applications, making the process of covering expansive areas both expensive and time-consuming.


Thermal imaging has become an indispensable tool in various industries, offering valuable insights into surface temperatures and uncovering hidden defects that may go unnoticed by the naked eye. Traditionally, thermal imagery was captured using handheld thermal cameras, which made surveying large areas time-consuming and costly. Moreover, accessing high perspectives for thermal imaging, like flat roofs, proved challenging without expensive mobile platforms or adjacent tall buildings.


However, the advent of drone technology has revolutionised thermal imaging surveys, making them more efficient, cost-effective, and safer. Equipped with cutting-edge UAV-mounted infrared camera technology, now delivers superior thermographic surveys. This article explores how thermal imaging drone surveys work and their various applications across industries.


How Does a Thermal Imaging Work?

Exploring the current and future potential of thermal imaging drone technology involves delving into the technical concepts behind thermal cameras’ functionality. Gaining an understanding of how thermal imaging equipment operates enhances the technology’s efficiency and allows for innovative deployment strategies for thermal drones.


Heat, which is infrared radiation (IR), is essentially atoms vibrating. Objects emit a heat signature based on the speed of their atoms’ movement – the faster the particles move, the hotter the object becomes. This study of heat signatures and the application of thermal imagery knowledge is known as thermography.


Humans can sense heat but cannot perceive infrared radiation visually. The reason lies in the electromagnetic wavelength of this radiation, which falls beyond the human eye’s perceptible range. However, thermal cameras convert infrared signatures into visible images, enabling us to observe and interpret the thermal world around us.


How do Thermal Cameras work?

Thermal cameras integrate specialised lenses capable of detecting infrared frequencies, along with thermal sensors and image processors to visualise the outcomes on a display. When mounted on drones, these cameras are usually affixed to a gimbal, ensuring image stability and enabling a 360-degree lens rotation.


The microbolometers, which serve as thermal sensors within these advanced cameras, have witnessed significant improvements in recent years. Modern solutions no longer necessitate the use of specialised cooling materials, making them more accessible and user-friendly.


Drone thermal cameras exhibit the capability to detect a wide range of objects, with some exceptions. Highly polished, shiny, and reflective items have low emissivity, meaning they do not absorb much heat and can be challenging to detect using thermal cameras. Conversely, high emissivity objects, such as wood, concrete, and even humans, can be effortlessly scanned and identified.


Let’s delve into some specific applications of thermal imaging drone surveys:


Sub-Surface Water Leaks

Water leakage poses a significant problem for water suppliers in England and Wales. UAV-mounted thermal imaging cameras facilitate sub-surface water leak surveys, where escaped water appears clear on thermal images during cold mornings. This technology enables the survey of large areas, including challenging or inaccessible locations like rural land. Similarly, the same thermal imaging technology can detect subsurface steam leaks from district heating networks.


Thermal Building Inspection

Thermal imaging plays a crucial role in evaluating the condition of building envelopes. These inspections can accurately detect moisture entrapment, roofing delamination, water ingress points, concealed defects, and air loss. Swift detection of these issues allows better planning and management of remediation works, especially in hard-to-reach areas. The thermal imaging data can also enhance BREEAM grade advanced building inspections, providing valuable insights into insulation quality and identifying air leaks and moisture intrusion.


What’s Included in a Drone Thermal Imaging Survey?

A drone thermal imaging survey is usually a comprehensive package to help businesses achieve energy savings and carbon reduction goals. 

A team of consultants and accredited surveyors will provide:

Non-invasive Visual and Thermal Inspection:

The drone captures high-resolution thermal images and visual data, enabling a comprehensive analysis of the building’s condition without the need for intrusive procedures.


Detailed Digital Report and Analysis:

A detailed report and analysis based on the captured data, providing a clear understanding of the building’s thermal characteristics and potential issues.

Retrofit Prioritisation Using Heat Loss Values:

The team uses heat loss values to prioritise retrofitting efforts, guiding organisations in making strategic investments to improve energy efficiency.

Technical Insight for Tender Publication:

Experts provide technical insights that can be included in tender publications, facilitating seamless communication with contractors and stakeholders during the remediation process.

Maximum Impact for Minimal Spend:

By identifying energy inefficiencies and defects accurately, organisations can make targeted repairs, maximising the impact of their spending and ensuring a more sustainable future.


Drone thermal imaging surveys have transformed the way industries approach building inspections, leak detection, and energy efficiency assessments. The utilisation of UAV-mounted infrared camera technology has made thermal imaging surveys more accessible, efficient, and cost-effective. 


From sub-surface water leak detection to thermal building inspections, this innovative approach provides actionable data, enabling informed decision-making and targeted remediation strategies. With comprehensive packages, businesses gain valuable insights into their building’s condition, contributing to energy conservation efforts and improved sustainability.


Contact Angell Surveys to book your Thermal Imaging Drone Survey today.