Uplift Data Partners takes to the skies to measure buildings’ thermal envelopes

As we enter the hot summer months, most people know that there is nothing–nothing–worse than a drafty house or apartment. Even here in Windy City, temperatures hit the mid-90s and turn Chicago’s old apartment buildings into cauldrons of listless heat.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

With the help of cutting-edge technology, builders can now ensure that a structure’s thermal envelope (a structure’s ability retains temperature) is intact during the construction phase.

One option is the scanner route, where handheld infrared cameras are used to check for leaks or weak spots in a building’s insulation. Fluke’s TiS thermal scanner is perfect for small, quick looks at a building’s integrity and thermal envelope. Additionally, FLIR also produces a huge variety of portable thermal scanners that are great for workers in the field. Yet, these technologies are somewhat limited in that they don’t necessarily give you an encompassing, birds-eye view of a building’s thermal envelope.

More and more, construction companies are turning to aerial options to get a more accurate and full picture of the project’s thermal envelope. Now, builders can attach high-quality thermal cameras to drones, which fly job sites looking for holes and gaps in the envelope.

“Essentially, the footage from the drone allows us to take a look at how the building is performing form an energy-efficiency perspective,” said Mark Hallinan, the Projects Director at Clayco. “From a constructability standpoint that allows us to see if there are any hotspots or areas in the building that aren’t performing as intended.”

Clayco is currently in the midst of the $152 million East Halls project at Penn State University. It is a massive undertaking that will see the construction of two new residence halls and the renovation of 13 more by 2022. To combat the scale of the project, Clayco enlisted Uplift Data Partners to collect information about the buildings using state-of-the-art thermal cameras attached to drones.

Uplift Data Partners is the leading data capture pilot platform for enterprise businesses to capture and integrate drone data into their business operations. Uplift services the construction, real estate, and insurance markets with nationwide coverage in the United States with over 600 pilots. The company has a rigorous vetting and recruitment pilot process. Pilots have to be commercially qualified to specific criteria set by Uplift. If the pilot passes this vetting, they are entered into the Uplift network and are required to complete propriety training modules, designed and created by Uplift, to ensure all pilot learn industry-specific knowledge. One of the services they offer companies like Clayco is filming construction projects with thermal cameras, searching for holes in the insulation.

“You need to be able to see any leaks and other things the human eye can’t see,” said Matt Lyon, Uplift’s head pilot. “The thermal inspections are really good for detecting any leaks, whether it be coolant, air conditioning, or heat.”

Uplift rolled out thermal training to its pilot network at the start of 2018, ensuring that each pilot has both the knowledge and skill to fly thermal recipes–or custom guidelines and directions for each assignment. The components of a recipe include the height the drone flies at, the time of day, the equipment used, and the specific features that need to be photographed. These recipes are custom-made and ensure the best data is captured efficiently. Most thermal recipes are shot at twilight, so as to not pick up interference from the sun. Because of this snag, flying thermal recipes required Uplift to get a special night waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Investing time and resources over a period of 9 consecutive months, Uplift was in the first 10% of companies to acquire that waiver, which put it on the cutting edge of this practice. It also created its proprietary 90-minute training on Night Waiver missions and rolled it out to its pilot network.

So far on the East Halls project, Uplift has flown two thermal recipes for Clayco, and about five more are scheduled in the next few weeks. According to Hallinan this is to ensure that the buildings’ thermal envelope during the winter and summer, and when the residence halls are occupied and unoccupied.

“What that allows us to do is compare a ‘before, during, and after’ with the thermal imaging to make sure we are covering all our bases, and our envelope is intact,” Hallinan said. “Our intent is to take a look at the hotspots and check on things that are wrong.”

Hallian says that working Uplift was a positive experience and that he plans on using the company again on future projects. Not only was working with Uplift such a great experience, but Hallian believes that drones are as a cost-effective option and give builders an overall picture of their project’s thermal performance.

BuiltWorlds partnered with Uplift Data Partners to bring you this article. Uplift was featured on a panel about drones at our Chicago Projects Conference last month. 

About Uplift

Uplift Data Partners is the leading data capture pilot platform for enterprise businesses to capture and integrate drone data into their business operations. Our turnkey platform strategically matches highly trained commercial drone pilots with enterprise clients, enabling them to scale their drone data capture needs. The platform seamlessly solves for compliance, airspace, and dispatch of commercially trained pilots at the touch of a button. Uplift’s pilot network is the leading commercially trained and insured pilot network, guaranteeing that every drone pilot meets our enterprise client requirements. Our network has 100% nationwide coverage of the United States, in addition to network-wide night waiver that allows for completing night missions, allowing us to deliver any mission anywhere. Our clients are leading brands in the construction, insurance, and real estate industries with national and global recognition. Click here to learn more about Uplift Data Partners.