The job that only took 6 years....

Joined
Feb 3, 2018
Messages
877
Reaction score
675
Age
58
Location
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Hey doods!

In 2015 an Electrical Contractor friend of mine, Drew, came to me and asked about elevated utility inspections, and how that would work out with a drone. By sheer coincidence, my next door neighbor, Anthony - an engineer for our local electric company - made roughly the same inquiry. Intuitively, it made sense to me that a drone should be able to make quick work of inspecting elevated utilities. At the time the only way to inspect these elevated utilities was to hire a crew with a bucket truck, block the road, take down notes on a piece of paper and file that paper into a cabinet somewhere. Even worse, some poles have to be physically climbed, as not all poles are accessible with a bucket truck. In addition, because some inspections take place BELOW the arrestors and other components, inspectors would often miss "top rot," which is corrosion from the top down due to rain, hail, birds and other anomalies. This was not only expensive, but archaic. It seemed to me that "drone inspections" was an easy sale. I could not only save them thousands, but I wouldn't block traffic and I could produce data that could be digitally archived, accessed and shared among peers. To demonstrate this, I made a video. Remember, this was 2015. So my equipment was a Phantom 1 with a GoPro camera.


While both Anthony and Drew appreciated my video, which answered all their questions, Anthony told me that at his end bureaucracy was going to be my worst enemy. "New technology" moves slowly through the wheels of our local electrical utility provider. And needless to say, the IBEW wasn't very pleased at losing those lucrative inspection jobs.

Conversely, Drew, an independent contractor, was interested. He told me that he had an upcoming job at the New Mexico Spaceport. He asked me to draw up a proposal. This was tough for me, as I honestly hadn't a clue how close we could get to the electrical poles (called "Structures" in the industry) or how long it would take, and on and on. Like a babe in the woods, I took a "best guess" at what this job would entail, and drew up this proposal. Please notice the date:

1623256264601.png


So on Thursday June 3rd - more than 6 years after drawing up my proposal - my phone rings. It's Drew. He says, "I got the contract for the Spaceport. How quickly can you be ready? Can you be ready by next week?" By sheer dumb luck, the week of the 7th was light. I checked wind reports, and Sunday the 6th looked very good, with the rest of the week coming in as "doable" all before 2 PM (when wind would pick up past 30 mph). Being an independent businessman, I knew Drew would be good with leaving Sunday.

Worth noting here is a very predictable clash in workflow styles. While I'm like most of you; very OCD about understanding the job, getting equipment ready, understanding deliverables, etc., Drew is more of a "giterdone" kind of guy - working mostly "from the cuff." I was prepared to make my case. Fortunately, Drew is a smart individual and deferred to my expertise.

Drew indicated that "a couple photos" will do. But I didn't like that idea. I pushed for 4K video because I could circle the top of the utility, grab frames and digitally zoom. Done right, this would allow inspection of every nut, bolt and wire. In addition, the metadata - which is in the form of a subtitle - would net GPS coordinates, which I could then use to plot each individual structure in Google Earth, and then export to a .kml file. Drew didn't seem to care about the .kml file, but he indicated that other entities would be looking at these files, including Spaceport personnel. Drew is a "low-tech" guy, but I know others would appreciate the clarity a .kml "map" would lend to the project.

In this screen shot, you can see that I have labeled every 5th structure and some other structures.

1623257871134.png


Worth noting, the red pins indicate a glitch I had in one of my MicroSD cards. Fortunately, I caught the glitch early and switched cards. I will never use that brand of card again. I'm sticking with SanDisk.

Here's a wider shot of the entire jobsite.

1623258104957.png


Each labeled structure corresponds to a video file:

1623258297703.png


Here's Drew's rig. Note that the Can-Am UTV is brand new. It has air conditioning, power steering and a stereo. $32K. Purchased for this job.

DSC06633.JPG


Here's a screen shot of the first pole (Structure 1). Note the GPS data...very important.

1623258511589.png


And finally, here's a screen shot demonstrating the zoomability of these videos:

1623258677696.png


1623258754411.png


Here's my wind report notes:


DSC06639.JPG

As of this writing I'm delivering a thumb drive to Drew in about an hour. In turn, he will share the data with the Spaceport people. We'll see how this goes.

Job spec's:

* 94 structures
* 5.5 miles
* Roughly 6 hours total Can-Am time over 2 days (Sunday and Monday)
* I flew the drone from inside the cab
* Though air conditioned, it was still fairly warm inside the cab
* 26GB of data
* Used 5 batteries the first day and 5 batteries the second day. I had 9 batteries with me.
* My homemade battery charger failed, as it simply got too hot in the direct sunlight in the bed. Good thing we didn't need it.
* Due to little or no cell service, we had no Internet. Fortunately, I planned for this and cached all maps and made hand notes for wind.


Oh....here's the brand new Can-Am post inspection. As you can see, it ain't new any more!

DSC06636.JPG


I ended up billing this out at $2500. Drew was more than happy with this because he had budgeted 5 days for this job. We got it done in 2.

D
 
Last edited:
Joined
Feb 3, 2018
Messages
877
Reaction score
675
Age
58
Location
Albuquerque, New Mexico
You’re a good friend to have. You made Drew look good.
Thanks for the valuable lessons. You also make a good instructor. You make my head hurt. I think I’ll go out and fly just for the fun of it, with nothing much to please, but my own satisfaction. Lol.
Hey, thanx for the kudos. Drew was pretty happy (amazed?) with the footage and the .kml map. At his behest, I dropped the thumb drive off at the Electrical Contractor Drew was subbing out to. Hopefully, they will be as impressed.

D
 

ianzone

**P4**
Joined
May 22, 2016
Messages
7,086
Reaction score
4,795
Age
51
Location
NZ
That's a buzz,,cool job ,what a office to have :)
 
  • Like
Reactions: Harleydude
Joined
May 1, 2017
Messages
3,544
Reaction score
2,853
Age
67
Location
N.central wv. U.S.
I was impressed with how you went about the whole process. You have a great attitude and work ethics. It was a perfect job except you had to spend all that time with Drew. Lol.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Harleydude
Joined
Feb 3, 2018
Messages
877
Reaction score
675
Age
58
Location
Albuquerque, New Mexico
I was impressed with how you went about the whole process. You have a great attitude and work ethics. It was a perfect job except you had to spend all that time with Drew. Lol.
Actually, Drew and I have been buds since like 1986. We used to ride together. We rode to Minnesota together in '86 and we've been buds ever since.

D
 
Joined
Oct 24, 2020
Messages
113
Reaction score
151
Age
50
Location
Melbourne, Australia
Nice story. How do you obtain the meta data that you upload to Google Earth? I have a GPS data recorder which I've strapped to my drone, but I'm wondering if there's an easier way.
 
Joined
Jan 17, 2020
Messages
20
Reaction score
11
Location
Midwest
Awesome! As a side note - I never realized how long the wheel base was on those Can Am's o_O

Also, I've never seen a 2x8 used like that for a crossarm - interesting.
 
Joined
Feb 3, 2018
Messages
877
Reaction score
675
Age
58
Location
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Nice story. How do you obtain the meta data that you upload to Google Earth? I have a GPS data recorder which I've strapped to my drone, but I'm wondering if there's an easier way.
1623334160355.png


I use the drone's GPS data for obvious reasons. In this photo we were standing outside the UTV, but this is the one and only time we shot this way. We were always 1 pole behind the drone so that I could see the drone clearly out the UTV window. The poles are about 320' apart.

D
 
Last edited:
Joined
Feb 3, 2018
Messages
877
Reaction score
675
Age
58
Location
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Awesome! As a side note - I never realized how long the wheel base was on those Can Am's o_O
In the words of Drew, "This is the Cadillac of UTV's."

Apparently there is a shortage of UTV's due to manufacturing issues stemming from raw material supply issues - or so I'm told. Ergo; There was only one left in the city. So Drew purchased it. He actually wanted a short wheel-base model so we wouldn't high center on steeper climbs, but this was all they had.


Also, I've never seen a 2x8 used like that for a crossarm - interesting.
It held its own. It's a good thing it has a 4WD with a low gear. We used that several times. It has a 1,000cc Rotax motor, but honestly, it feels under-powered to me. I'm sure running the AC the entire time didn't help.

D
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: 54_96 and ianzone
Joined
Feb 3, 2018
Messages
877
Reaction score
675
Age
58
Location
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Super video, nice to see how you work. I had those prop guards, I don't think I ever used the string. We've come a long way from those days.
Thanx for the kudos. And I'm not sure that string ever helped, but maybe it did. I DID fly through a tree once completely unimpeded. So there's that....<;^)

And, yes, we HAVE come a long way from those days.

D
 
Last edited:
Joined
Aug 16, 2020
Messages
10
Reaction score
8
Age
53
Location
North Central Md
Thanks for sharing - I know this post took quite a bit of time to put together. Loved your intro video-your service should sell itself !

What model bird did you fly for this job? With the stock camera? The photos turned out good and delivery with the KML was definitely the right way to deliver your data. The company can integrate your date into many other programs.

How many maps did you prep ahead of the flights? Did you use the on-board DJI mission software for this, or another application such as Litchi?

Sorry for so many questions but your post is really interesting! Please let us know how quickly you get the next contract.

thanks again
BC
 
Joined
Sep 10, 2017
Messages
111
Reaction score
96
Age
65
Location
Devon, UK
HNice story. How do you obtain the meta data that you upload to Google Earth? I have a GPS data recorder which I've strapped to my drone, but I'm wondering if there's an easier way.
Hi Pygar70,. I am away from home at the moment so working from memory which is risky these days... In your Phantom settings you need to turn on 'Video Captions'. This oddly named setting will cause an additional file to be generated with every video file. It will have the same file name but a different extension. If the 2 files are in the same folder when you play the video file it will pick up the GPS data from the small file and superimpose it over the video. When you don't want to see the data take the small file out of the folder. I recall vaguely that when I first tried to turn on the Video Captions setting it didn't stick and the additional wasn't generated and I had to do it again. However, I have left this setting on ever since.
Hope this helps, Martin
 
Joined
Feb 3, 2018
Messages
877
Reaction score
675
Age
58
Location
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Thanks for sharing - I know this post took quite a bit of time to put together.
It did...<:^)



Loved your intro video-your service should sell itself !
Thank you, sir. I appreciate the kudos.



What model bird did you fly for this job?
Phantom 4 Pro.



With the stock camera?
Yes. No filters.


The photos turned out good and delivery with the KML was definitely the right way to deliver your data.
Thanx. Hopefully, the client feels the same. I haven't heard back from the original contactor, which may be good news. As we all know, "No news is good news."



The company can integrate your date into many other programs.
Perhaps. It's just video and a .kml. Somebody smarter than me can probably think of a great way of presenting the data to laymen.




How many maps did you prep ahead of the flights?
If you mean; How many did I cache? I just cached the area in my iPad. Ultimately, I didn't really need the maps, but they did help with understanding what terrain the UTV was going to need to negotiate. So essentially Drew used the maps more than I did. But they were good to have.




Did you use the on-board DJI mission software for this, or another application such as Litchi?
Go4 App. Legacy version 4.0.8.




Sorry for so many questions but your post is really interesting! Please let us know how quickly you get the next contract.
I will. But let's not hold our breath. I've done spectacular work before that went mostly unnoticed...LOL... So if the phone rings, it rings. If it doesn't...well...maybe I need to up my game....<:^/



thanks again
BC
Hue Betchee.

D
 
  • Like
Reactions: Bernie C
Joined
Feb 3, 2018
Messages
877
Reaction score
675
Age
58
Location
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Hi Pygar70,. I am away from home at the moment so working from memory which is risky these days... In your Phantom settings you need to turn on 'Video Captions'. This oddly named setting will cause an additional file to be generated with every video file.
Correction: The Inspire 1 will create an additional .srt file, which is essentially a subtitle file. The P4P embeds the subtitle data in the .mov file. So there are no additional files. You are, however, correct about the cryptic setting. The only way to rid the footage of the on-screen data is to turn off subtitles in your favorite video viewer software.

D
 
Joined
Sep 10, 2017
Messages
111
Reaction score
96
Age
65
Location
Devon, UK
Hi Pygar70,. I am away from home at the moment so working from memory which is risky these days... In your Phantom settings you need to turn on 'Video Captions'. This oddly named setting will cause an additional file to be generated with every video file. It will have the same file name but a different extension. If the 2 files are in the same folder when you play the video file it will pick up the GPS data from the small file and superimpose it over the video. When you don't want to see the data take the small file out of the folder. I recall vaguely that when I first tried to turn on the Video Captions setting it didn't stick and the additional wasn't generated and I had to do it again. However, I have left this setting on ever since.
Hope this helps, Martin

Correction: The Inspire 1 will create an additional .srt file, which is essentially a subtitle file. The P4P embeds the subtitle data in the .mov file. So there are no additional files. You are, however, correct about the cryptic setting. The only way to rid the footage of the on-screen data is to turn off subtitles in your favorite video viewer software.

D
Hi Harleydude, DJI have used several different methods for capturing the GPS data. On the P4 I own it does produce the extra data file. Personally, I would say that this is a better system than embedding the data within the video file because it makes it easy for the user to choose whether to superimpose the GPS data or not. Have both video and data file in the same folder if you want to display co-ordinates. Remove the data file from the folder if you just want to display the video. The beauty of the 2 file system is that you can turn on the option and just leave it on. Then later if you want GPS co-ordinates they are always available.
All the best, Martin
 

New Threads

Forum statistics

Threads
140,752
Messages
1,450,506
Members
102,587
Latest member
Blufx