Thermal Maps With Drone Cameras For Energy Efficiency

Researchers at UMass Lowell are working on a pilot project to help the university identify and prioritize cost-saving repairs and energy-efficiency projects on campus. Drones equipped with infrared cameras can create thermal maps showing where buildings or underground steam pipes are losing heat and costing organizations money. These can help identify energy efficiency projects. They could be a game-changer in 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 hired to fly over campus and collect thermal images.

After reviewing the thermal maps, the researchers discovered noticeable heat loss from one of the campus’s buildings and a “bright red spot” that indicated a potential underground steam pipe leak. It could lead to some great energy projects to tighten up the university buildings. It’s a high-level — no pun intended — energy audit that provides a comprehensive overview of any issues. It has the potential to be a game changer in terms of performing large-scale, rapid energy audits. The thermal images can also show overheating electrical equipment, such as generators, that need maintenance.

Researchers hope to advance the project by using the scans to create a more detailed 3-D rendering of a building, a process known as photogrammetry that could be used in future research.

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