Researchers at UMass Lowell are working on a pilot project they say will help the university identify and prioritize cost-saving repairs and energy-efficiency projects on campus. Drones equipped with infrared cameras can be used to create thermal maps that show where buildings or underground steam pipes are losing heat and costing organizations money and that can help identify energy efficiency projects. They could potentially be a game-changer in terms of doing energy audits on a large, rapid scale.
The energy audit is done by a drone equipped with a $13,000 infrared camera; the drone replaces the planes that the facilities department used to hire to fly over campus and collect thermal images.
After reviewing the thermal maps, the researchers discovered noticeable heat loss coming from one of the campus’s buildings, as well as a “bright red spot” that indicated a potential underground steam pipe leak. This could lead to some pretty great energy projects to tighten up the university buildings. The thermal images can also show overheating electrical equipment, such as generators, that need maintenance.