Integrating Aerial Patrols For Utility Field Operations

Aerial patrols are an integral part of a modern utility field operations program. Whether flying annual cycles for vegetation management, or inspecting critical assets during a storm response, the speed and accuracy of aerial patrols play a key role for many utilities. This speed and accuracy can come with considerable cost savings too; aerial patrols can save up to $48/mile in inspection costs, based on a report comparing utilities with mostly aerial patrols against those primarily reliant on foot patrols. And in order to get these cost savings and keep flying at 40 knots, the software has to keep up.

With the latest release, Clearion X can now rule the skies too.

We’ve innovated the patrol process to unlock productivity by spotting aerial targets with a few simple touches—no scribbled notes needed. Smoother GPS performance, bigger buttons, and new smart forms also contribute to a new level of efficiency and reliability in the app so it can be a trusted companion on any flight. Lastly—and importantly—aerial patrols are a fully integrated step in our robust end-to-end utility and asset management workflows.

Aerial Patrols and Geospatial Workforce Management

Geospatial workforce management software covers big ground. Organizations typically manage thousands of miles of roadways, spanning millions of acres. That’s a lot of ground to cover. 

To work efficiently, these companies need to take to the air, and use either satellite or helicopter driven patrols to gain real-time purviews of the maintenance and work needed. After storms or emergencies, this aerial work is even more critical to reset priorities and efficiently manage teams. 

However, usually these steps are disjointed. Aerial patrols are run, and data entry is manual to create work orders. In fact, most inspectors believe it is impossible to keep up with the speed of information coming in and will not add airtime to achieve it.

To make inspectors in aerial patrols successful and want to run aerial patrols inside their field workforce management system, we believe there are 4 main requirements:

  1. Users must be able to quickly navigate through screens, load in data from a simplified map, and capture the essentials in a few seconds before moving on to the next target.
  2. Much like the spartan interior of a helicopter, the software’s interface has to be pared down to meet the needs of the aerial inspector. Entering complex data needs to take as few as 3-4 touches.  
  3. Cell towers slip out of view quickly and can’t be relied on. Users must be able to load all of their relevant lines and structures in advance when on a strong connection and take this work “offline”. 
  4. GPS keeps the map tracking without needing user input, helps locate work, and provides histories of all flights flown.

Clearion X has contained some of the elements of “aerial mode” for a while, but aerial patrols are truly being unlocked in the 2.2 release.

User Interface

A new user interface (UI) streamlines the experience of getting work done. Bigger buttons, intuitive links between pages, and a modern look and feel make translating observations into data easier, faster, and more reliable with only a few touches.

Offline Mode

Offline has been a core component of any Clearion workflow since day 1. With Clearion X, patrollers can easily take areas of interest offline with one touch. No functionality is lost when working offline—if anything, performance is even more lightning fast.

GPS Panning and Tracking

In the 2.2 release, GPS panning and tracking offers more tight integration with the device’s current location. The map will automatically follow the user, much like a conventional navigation app, allowing the user’s map view to match their view out the front window. GPS tracking is constantly running behind the scenes, getting rich data on what assets were inspected and where the flight went. Users get individual control over when to initiate and stop tracking. Tracks are automatically associated with Clearion work management concepts, and don’t need advanced processing once generated to give supervisors and satellite level view of the work being conducted. 

The Sky is No Longer the Limit

Aerial patrols and the data gathered during them are only good if they lead to action. Identifying hazard trees from the air is only the beginning. With Clearion, aerial patrols are just another step in our thorough end to end workflow solutions. 

Out of the box, aerial patrols flow into follow-up ground assessments and actionable work plans, which can then be dispatched out to maintenance crews, and finally checked off by auditors. 

Want to dispatch aerial targets of concern straight to crews as part of a storm response? That can be configured too. Regardless of the chain of custody, each step of the process is tracked, working from the same data, and occurring in the same application. 

Just like how aerial patrols have led to huge cost savings for utilities, digital aerial patrols are poised to make the next leap forward. With software that can keep up with a helicopter, the sky is truly no longer the limit. 

If you are interested in using Clearion’s new aerial patrol capabilities or would like to talk to one of our experts on how you can modernize your aerial patrols, please contact us using the form below.

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