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Garuda Robotics, a drone technology company, was set up in Singapore in 2014. It designs, manufactures and operates smart drone systems that help users in a wide range of industries to create safer built environments.
It has collaborated with the Housing and Development Board and Building Construction Authority under the Gov-PACT programme to carry out building façade inspections using drones.
The building façade inspection industry has been around for a long time. “However, one challenge is that drone technology for such inspections is a relatively new development. Hence, there are diverse levels of drone capabilities in the industry, which calls for standardisation,” says Mark Yong, CEO of Garuda Robotics.
Another challenge is that multiple stakeholders are involved in building façade inspections such as the authorities, town councils and inspection professionals (registered professional engineers and façade inspectors). “This makes it important to have a common set of guidelines on drone use that everyone can refer to for quality assurance,” Mr Yong explains.
In 2020, Garuda Robotics adopted the TR 78 standard, which is the first of its kind in the world that provides guidance on drone use for building façade inspection.
"We are typically working [our drones] in live sites where everyone is going about their daily lives, so the safety element is important. Being TR 78-compliant [which entails adhering to strict safety requirements] gives our clients peace of mind."
– Mark Yong, CEO, Garuda Robotics .
1. Enhancing Data Collection
Drone technology offers visual checks beyond what the human eye can see. Drones can get very close to buildings, work under poor lighting conditions and enter hard-to-reach places that are high or narrow. Drones can also provide the images from their visual checks in real time.
“The images captured are of a very high quality,” says Mr Yong. “With TR 78, we adhere to high image resolution standards that provide our clients with extremely detailed views of their building façades.”
In fact, drones are capable of capturing massive amounts of backup visual data, which is where Garuda Robotics’ AI system kicks in.
“When you have that much data, you need to be able to sift through it efficiently,” says Mr Yong. “Our AI system automates this process and detects potential defects, which reduces the burden of manual checking.”
In addition, TR 78 also lists the data encryption requirements to protect the privacy of building occupants.
Quick List of Benefits
TR 78:2020 – Building façade inspection using unmanned aircraft systems
2. Increasing Manpower Efficiency
Binoculars and cameras are used in the traditional method of capturing images of building façades. It is a labour-intensive process, as the inspectors have to go to different locations to get quality views of buildings. The manual process, requiring up to five workers, takes one to three days based on the building’s complexity – the higher the building, the more challenging the work.
The use of drones reduces the process to just less than half a day and requires a maximum of three workers. Drones can also be flown up very high buildings. For these reasons, drone inspection is often more cost-effective for clients.
To ensure manpower efficiency, TR 78 sets out clearly the roles in drone inspection, the required qualifications of the personnel involved and their duties.
Mr Yong says, “By adopting TR 78, we assure our clients that only qualified personnel are engaged in the inspections and report endorsements.”
By using drones, inspectors do not need to be stationed at many different spots of a building to carry out inspections. Drones also incorporate autonomous capabilities, such as the smart detection and avoidance of obstacles for safer operations.
3. Strengthening Overall Safety
TR 78 implements a safety layer at every stage of the building façade inspection workflow.
Mr Yong explains, “For our drone operations to meet TR 78’s safety requirements, we have to include risk assessments and mitigation plans at various steps. We are typically working in live sites where everyone is going about their daily lives, so the safety element is important. Being TR 78-compliant gives our clients peace of mind.”
Apart from public safety, there is also increased worker safety, as “they no longer need to work at height,” says Mr Yong. “The drones do the dull, dirty and dangerous tasks instead of humans. This frees up our clients’ manpower to engage in more strategic work.”
4. Improving Business Processes
Mr Yong points out that before TR 78 was developed, it was difficult to convince facility owners of the benefits of using drones. “Now, with TR 78, a system for drone usage in building inspection has been developed, which puts everyone on the same page and offers clarity to clients,” he says.
Even the technical reports generated from the process are codified in TR 78, which means that “all stakeholders have the same, standardised inspection reports that better align decision-making across the process flow,” says Mr Yong.
Since adopting TR 78, Garuda Robotics has sped up its drone services sales cycle by five times. “TR 78 allows us to boost our reputation for quality drone inspection,” Mr Yong adds. “The standard also signals to the industry that drone inspection is a legitimate process that has advanced from its research and development phase.”
Garuda Robotics is now expanding its drone inspection services into markets across Southeast Asia such as Malaysia and Thailand.