Questions about a QuadCopter abilities as a buisness tool

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Snook Man

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I got a call from a friend who is in the same business as I with an idea to use a quad copter equipped with a high resolution camera (stills and video) to take images/video of the outside façade of high rise buildings that we inspect.
Often some of the areas we need to have a look at are very hard to access and repelling is the easiest way due to a boom lift not able to get to the area or will not reach high enough and swing staging takes a lot of time and money to assemble and often cannot be used in some situations. Repelling works well for access but it takes quite a bit of time to setup to do it safely.
Were basically wanting to use the quad to fly up the outside of the building to an area we need images of and take nice clear high def images of the area of concern. The images would need to be good enough that we could then later zoom in and have a detailed look at the area for defects in the sealant/flashings/windows/control and expansion joints, etc. If the images show a need for further hands on inspection we could then plan to access the area in person. The quad could save a lot of time and money in just knowing if we need to go the trouble to access the area.
What kind of setup would be the best for this type of situation and is it even possible to safely fly close to a large building 40 or 50 stories high .I know updrafts and winds will be an issue and safety would also be a major concern. Some of the buildings are very close together with only a narrow ally 10/14 feet wide separating them.
What kind of restrictions are we looking at generally, we would have permission from the property owner to fly the building but what about city/county restrictions flying above pedestrians and cars/traffic. Anyone know if you can even obtain liability insurance for such a thing?
We are just toying with the idea and I thought I would ask to see if any of you have some thoughts/ideas on the matter.
Also, if you know of anyone in the Dallas Fort Worth area with a setup that would fit the bill who would be willing to do some experimenting/test flights and earn some cash let me know.
 

Rolex

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The first thing you need to do is check with the AMA. (Academy of Model Aeronautics)
You need to be a registered member with them to join any local sanctioned club in order to fly there and be insured.

Commercial might be a tough call. Scanning the buildings doesn't seem to be a problem, but if you have to fly above traffic and pedestrians you've got a whole 'nuther story.
If I were you I'd develop a light rigging that's easy to place on almost any rooftop and then drop a camera down on the lines.
 

hamz9561

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A good quad might be able to do the job. You'd need to have at least a 450mm version. They have the payload ability and stability to take an HD camera aloft. You'd probably want one with GPS capability so you can have a safety return home home function. You'll probably want to go with a hex or octo just for safety reasons.
 

Rolex

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There's no question that it could be done with a good quad, the problem is the legalities involved.
 

Snook Man

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We actually do drop cameras over the side from the roof now, it does work but it’s not as easy as it sounds. Say the roof is 50 floors and you want to see a window on the 15th floor, that’s a long way down from the top and it is very difficult to get a well framed image. It’s also a lot of work setting up and one could set up a repelling rig in about the same time as it takes to get a camera in position.
This is just an idea we a throwing around but it would make the job so much easier if it were at all possible.
Neither of us has much experience in flying so if it were possible we would probably hire someone with experience and put them on the payroll.
I guess the 1st thing we need to do is check into the liability insurance. Even dropping a camera or a water test spray rack over the side of a building on ropes/cables often requires a permit and securing the sidewalk & street below.
 

HPIguy

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An AMA membership won't help you at all in your situation due to the recent rule revisions regarding FPV flight by the AMA. If you're interested in doing this for commercial reasons, I highly suggest a hexa or octocopter for safety reasons, as hamz already keyed in on. I also can't stress enough you need to really understand all the RF frequencies at play on your aircraft, some basic RF principles, and what the RF noise floor is in the area you wish to fly / inspect. More times than not, lost FPV craft are operator error in one form or another in the end.

The problem with the AMA rules are here;

http://www.modelaircraft.org/files/report_on_revised-550-560-oct-8-2012.pdf

Section 2, article A (the big one for you)

FPV flying of radio control model aircraft by AMA members is allowed only for
noncommercial purposes as a hobby/recreational and/or competition activity.

Section 3, article B

All FPV flights require an AMA FPV pilot to have an AMA FPV spotter next to
him/her maintaining VLOS with the FPV aircraft throughout its flight.



For fun flying (for which the organization was created also), the AMA is a great thing for sure. But for commercial purposes, the AMA isn't going to CYA, and nor can one expect them to. You'd have to buy private insurance for this type of thing, and I have no idea from whom.

All that being said, I think that FPV / unmanned aircraft have many jobs they could do that would put less human beings at risk, and also do the job much cheaper. Bridge and building inspections being a big one. I've been flying FPV since March, and have yet to go out past 1/2 mile or above 200 feet. The key to FPV (unless your stinking rich) is baby steps, and knowing your gear and how it's going to behave with each increase in distance or altitude. So far, I've brought all my birds home every time, a friend wasn't so lucky over the weekend and lost a $1500 quad for good.
 
Last edited:

Snook Man

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The idea has been shelved for now; you wouldn’t believe the hoops you have to jump through to get the required insurance coverage’s.
 
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