Radio Controlled Camera Platform improves safety and cuts costs

The Fort Worth District’s Infrastructure Support Section has the mission to conduct detailed assessments of varying roof types at several military installations, including Ft Bliss and Joint Base San Antonio.

The current roof inspection technique requires a team of at least two people to climb up a roof and visibly inspect it for wear and tear and other potential defects.

Requiring workers to go on steep roof tops presents safety hazards. These hazards are mitigated by the use of expensive fall protection equipment.

According to Fort Worth District safety specialist, Benoit Palmer, falls were the leading cause of death in the construction industry, accounting for over 3,500 fatalities between 2003 and 2013.

“Falls from roofs accounted for nearly 1,200, or 34 percent, of the fall deaths during that period,” said Palmer.

The high cost of the proper fall protection equipment and the training required to properly wear and use the equipment in the performance of one’s duty is a major concern for many in the construction industry.

“Nothing can replace actual “eyes on” in any evaluation, but when circumstances exist such as an unstable roof deck, confined space, or lack of a suitable attachment point for fall protection, this is by far the best option,” said W. Nolan Lange, a Fort Worth District roofing subject matter expert.

A typical standing seam roof anchor used at construction sites cost approximately $2,700. In order to conduct the necessary photography and inspection, an assessment team would require two team members on the roof, using a total of four anchors.
This drives the cost to over $10,000 and does not include the additional safety equipment needed such as safety harnesses, self-retracting lifelines, lanyards, etc.

“There were two issues that needed to be addressed; first, the safety hazards involved with climbing on sloped roofs and second, the high cost of fall protection equipment to minimize potential injuries,” said chief, Infrastructure Support Section, Matthew Milliorn.

The solution was to deploy a radio controlled camera platform to conduct the visual inspection, photography and thermal imaging without requiring an assessor to climb on a sloped roof.

“The crawler system will be able to field a camera and thermal imaging system. The camera allows real-time inspection of the roof, with a video signal transmitted to the operator on the ground,” said Jonathan Simon, team lead for the radio controlled camera platform.

The deployment of the wheel-based RCCP will keep the two person assessment team from having to go on every standing seam metal roof requiring inspection.

“In the past, if the team had to go on the roof for each inspection, four roof anchors would have to be deployed. With the crawler, one person would have to go on a roof only in cases to physically inspect anomalies or to retrieve the crawler,” said Milliard.

The crawler weighs less than eight pounds and can be easily carried up a ladder by an assessor and placed on a roof. The operator will then be able to position the crawler to start taking video and photos.

“Deploying the Crawler not only provides a significant reduction for potential fall hazards, it provides a cost savings of 64 percent,” stated Milliorn.

With the implementation of the crawler in roofing inspections, the team has sought out new ways in which to use this technology.
The crawler can be used to facilitate other inspections within the district that require going into tight or dangerous spaces, during events such as dam and levee inspections.

Milliorn stated, “We just recently used the crawler to inspect a 24-inch culvert at Lavon Lake. This is an area that is tight, wet and dark and has the potential to house snakes and other vermin that visual inspectors may encounter during a physical inspection.”

With the success of the crawler to the District mission, Milliorn plans to offer his crawler team to other Districts wishing to take advantage of this safe and low cost method of conducting roofing and other inspections.

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