Leveraging Thermal Imagery for Enhanced Efficiency and Sustainable Practices

7 June 2023

Hanson UK partners with Drone Pilot Academy to harness the power of thermal imaging.

In an ever-evolving industry where sustainability and operational excellence are paramount, Hanson UK, part of the Heidelberg Group, has partnered with Drone Pilot Academy (DPA) to harness the power of thermal imagery. This case study delves into how Hanson UK utilised the thermal sensor capabilities of the DJI Mavic 3 Thermal drone, with the support of DPA, to achieve improved safety on site, cost savings, and help meet their carbon emission targets. 

By leveraging DPA’s expertise and support, Hanson UK has successfully embraced drone technology and reaped numerous benefits across their operations. This article highlights the specific applications, new data analysis opportunities, and post-sales support provided by DPA throughout Hanson UK’s journey.

Hanson UK and the DJI Mavic 3

One of the key applications has been conducting thermal surveys of infrastructure, particularly asphalt plants. By using the thermal camera, Hanson can identify both hot and cold spots in the plant to ensure they are functioning correctly.

Similarly, they detected blockages in a bag house, allowing them to address the issue promptly. The thermal sensor also provided feedback on a dryer that had missing insulation, revealing a temperature difference of approximately 170 degrees Celsius. These findings not only helped them optimise the efficiency of their operations but also contributed to our commitment to reducing carbon emissions by identifying opportunities to harness and utilise excess heat.

The thermal sensor has also proven invaluable in inspecting power lines. Recently, they flew drones along power lines, in both de-energised and energised states, to check for any issues with the components. This saved them a significant amount of time and cost, as the traditional manual method of inspecting each post individually would have been a two-day job estimated at £8,000. With the thermal sensor on the Mavic 3, they were able to complete the inspection in just a few hours, achieving substantial time and cost savings. 

DJI drones

The Decision to Incorporate Drones for Volumetric Surveys

Hanson UK recognised the potential of drones in enhancing safety and efficiency within their quarries. By utilising drones for volumetric surveys, they aimed to improve data accuracy, minimise risks associated with manual surveys, and optimise operations. The decision to partner with DPA stemmed from the need for comprehensive training and ongoing support to navigate the drone industry successfully.

“The collected data has allowed us to create detailed 3D maps, which we can manipulate and analyse, and even overlay with 2D maps or blueprints. We are able to manage stockpiles efficiently, facilitate vehicle planning, test the impact of a new road within a quarry, and better comprehend how a site is changing over time. 

For the wider community, we have an instant and comprehensive understanding of the impact a site is having, prompting discussions about necessary adjustments and improvements.”

Justin Collis | Project & Engineering Manager

Tangible Benefits and Operational Advancements

By integrating drones into their quarry operations, Hanson UK experienced the following benefits.

  • Enhanced Safety: Drones significantly reduced human presence in areas with heavy machinery, mitigating risks associated with manual surveys and inspections.
  • Establishing and repeating benchmarks: Hanson can track changes over time and revisit areas with the thermal sensor to analyse the benefits achieved. The data collected through these easily repeatable surveys become a valuable resource for assessing the effectiveness of processes and initiatives.
  • Time and Cost Savings: The efficiency of drone-based volumetric surveys resulted in substantial time and cost savings compared to traditional manual methods. Drones enabled faster data collection, streamlined data manipulation, and facilitated more accurate route planning.
  • Improved Data Analysis: Drone-captured data was processed using specialised software, enabling detailed analysis of materials’ quality, size, and site visualisation. This information enhanced decision-making, quality analysis, and operational planning.
  • The Integration of Thermal Imaging for Enhanced Insights: Building on the success of drone-based volumetric surveys, Hanson UK explored the additional application of thermal imagery. By utilising the DJI Mavic 3 Thermal drone, they aimed to gain valuable insights into their operations, optimise efficiency, and support their sustainability goals.

Practical applications of thermal sensors

Enhanced Asset Inspection

Thermal sensors allowed Hanson UK to identify and rectify equipment malfunctions and anomalies promptly. By detecting potential issues early, they minimised downtime and optimised maintenance schedules, resulting in significant cost savings.

Improved Energy Efficiency

Thermal imagery enabled precise identification of energy inefficiencies in their facilities. By analysing temperature patterns and detecting heat loss or insulation problems, Hanson UK made targeted improvements, reducing energy consumption and achieving their carbon emission targets.

Data Analysis and Application Manipulation

DPA provided the necessary tools and expertise to analyse and manipulate thermal data effectively. Specialised software and applications allowed Hanson UK to visualise and interpret thermal imagery, enabling them to make informed decisions and optimise their operations.

“The industry is striving towards carbon reduction and I see drones as a crucial part of working towards that goal. If we can capture energy loss and reuse it, or prevent it in the first place, then we will be on the right pathway to success. We’re committed to reducing the carbon impact of our products and operational emissions, so we will continue to utilise drones for surveying quarries and stocks, for improving efficiencies in blasting, measuring stocks, security, site development, fragmentation, subsidence and planning.”

Justin Collis | Project & Engineering Manager

Thermal imaging

Expansion into Additional Applications

Building upon their initial success, Hanson UK expanded their drone operations to encompass other areas, such as inspections and blasting operations. DPA continued to provide guidance and support throughout this expansion, ensuring Hanson UK’s ongoing success.

Support and Training from Drone Pilot Academy

DPA played a pivotal role in Hanson UK’s journey by providing tailored on-site courses, assisting with Civil Aviation Authority applications, guiding operation’s manual development, and offering insurance recommendations. The collaboration extended beyond training as DPA facilitated joint courses with Hanson UK’s blasting contractors, promoting industry-wide knowledge sharing and collaboration.

Ongoing Support and Future Prospects

The prompt and reliable after-sales support from DPA proved crucial for Hanson UK’s sustained growth in the drone industry. The continuous collaboration and consultation provided by DPA have positioned Hanson UK to explore further applications, maximise operational efficiency, and continue developing practices across their business.

Conclusion: Harnessing Drones for Operational Excellence

The collaboration between Hanson UK and Drone Pilot Academy demonstrates the powerful impact of thermal imaging in the construction and aggregates industry. By leveraging the DJI Mavic 3 Thermal drone and DPA’s support, Hanson UK achieved tangible benefits, including improved asset inspection, energy efficiency, and sustainable practices. 

The strategic utilisation of thermal imagery, coupled with DPA’s specialised training and ongoing support, empowered Hanson UK to optimise operations and make informed decisions. This case study serves as a testament to the value of collaboration, expertise, and innovative technology in driving sustainable and efficient practices within the industry.

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