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View from Up Here: Tethered Drones in Enterprise Asset Management

Tethered Drones and EAM

Tethered drones offer the industrial sector a different vantage point when it comes to EAM.

Does drone mania have your head spinning like a propeller? Well, things are about to get even crazier.

Six out of 10 active drones today are used in communications and media, according to the Harvard Business Review, but those figures are due for a major change. The industrial sector has caught onto the untapped potential for drones, particularly tethered drones, to take their enterprise asset management strategies to new heights.

Wait, why not untethered drones?

At first glance, untethered drones sound like the better of the two options. Why get tied down if you can help it? Turns out, tethered drones are a far better option for industrial sector businesses fleshing out their EAM.

First, all unmanned aerial vehicles need a power source. Whereas the battery in an untethered drone may keep it airborne for a few minutes, tethered drones have a virtually endless supply of energy. For asset managers, constant power equals constant surveillance with minimal upkeep.

A tether also acts as a channel through which drones relay data to headquarters. A dedicated connection allows for large files of detailed information – images, video, etc. – to travel to where it counts faster and without interruption.

Tethered Drones and Power Cords

Even in a mobile world, tethered drones prove power cords aren't always a bad thing.

Lastly, drones are still a nascent technology, and even your most professional technicians will require time to become proficient in drone flight. Simply put, a tether stops you from losing these devices, crucial for operation in remote wooded areas or out at sea.

Now that we have an understanding of the benefits of tethered drones, let's shine a spotlight on how asset-intensive businesses use them to their utmost advantage:

Oil extraction just got a lot safer

According to information compiled by Kyla Retzer of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, upstream oil and gas operations present the biggest threat to industry workers. Although capital investment in recent years has slowed, the number of active rigs in the U.S. grew by more than 70 percent between 2003 and 2013, effectively doubling the workforce. While more hands certainly make lighter work, they also present a greater opportunity for disaster should something go wrong.

Tethered drones have the potential to relieve workers of many duties that unnecessarily put them in harm's way while increasing maintenance efficacy and asset reliability. Upstream businesses, both onshore and offshore, have already begun using UAVs to investigate flare stack obstructions instead of sending operators to check manually.

"Low-cost tethered drones can perform visual scans, conduct thermographic analysis and transmit data."

Supercharged savings for the power sector

True EAM, no matter the industry, is always a balance of three forces: cost efficiency, dependable performance and risk management. For the energy sector, those first two matter greatly when overseeing transmission and distribution assets. Companies want to send field service technicians out only when necessary to mitigate high O&M costs, but they realize predictive and proactive maintenance is impossible without conditional awareness. In short, how will they know what's up with assets without peeking under the hood? After all, sensors tell asset managers only so much.

Low-cost tethered drones, on the other hand, installed near pylons or substations, can perform visual scans from all angles in real time, conduct thermographic analysis and then transmit data to technicians back at home base for further scrutiny. Businesses save money on labor and transportation costs as well as ensure operational excellence at the same time. Necessary remote repairs can be made quickly because maintenance professionals know exactly what needs fixing and the resources that will accomplish that objective.

Furthermore, immediate eyes on a situation can also prevent repair teams from blindly entering unsafe situations or sound the alarm for issues like downed power lines early. That way, professionals and passersby all stay safe.

Looking for a way to bring tethered drones to your business? Check out the latest from Infor EAM, the customizable cloud-based asset management solution that's breaking new ground in drone surveillance.

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