Thermal imagery for detecting water leaks


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Hi all, I am considering testing thermal sensors to see if they might be effective for detecting pipeline and levee water  leaks.  The application would compare the soil temperature adjacent to the infrastructure.  I expect to see a cooler ‘plume’ with a leak.  I would appreciate advice about hardware and software for this application.  I currently have a DJI P4P and am investigating if I can use thermal sensors with it.  Thank you, Marty

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I don’t know a lot about thermal sensors, I’ve played with a FLIR Toa 640.  Most of them are a block camera and don’t have all of the necessary bits and bobs like memory card slot, video out, a way to control or trigger.  For the most part it was pretty useless.  All that for the low bargain basement price of $7000+.  

We added all of that stuff and it was pretty cool [see what I did there, cool.. thermal..], but without layering it over a visible image it was difficult discerning what we were looking at.  Sure you could easily see if a guy was taking a leak in the snow, but we’re in California so stuff wasn’t so easy to see with a relatively high outside air temperature.

FLIR advertises the new Duo-R-Pro that includes all you need to make aerial thermal useful.  I don’t know the price, I’m guessing it’s north of $7k.  I’ve seen them in trade shows but I don’t think their shipping yet.  The old FLIR Duo that DJI was selling didn’t work, and the FLIR Vue that DJI is selling for the M200 is really low resolution so it’s kind of useless. I believe they sell a radiometric version that can actually tell you the temperature of a POI but it’s more than $14k. 

Some people are having limited success making thermal work but I don’t think it’s a readily available plug-n-play solution yet, even if it was I doubt a P4 could carry it for any useful length of time.  

I could be wrong, it’s hard to keep up with what works but a little skepticism is probably a good thing.  There’s a lot of hype about thermal and I don’t think it’s warranted.  

Good luck and let us know what you find.

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This one looks good: http://www.flir.com/suas/duopro/

Don’t get this one: http://www.flir.com/suas/duo/?pi_ad_id=170586909597&gclid=Cj0KCQiA-qDTBRD-ARIsAJ_10yIO9gfyy2kmId1r64vfzZopQN1Q16bLUv4e7XZdtkPZAyvhETWkvAEaAtgNEALw_wcB. I’ve never used one but the few people I know who’ve purchased one had nothing good to say about the experience.

Here’s a review: 

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

@Marty L Drones have a huge potential to reduce cost in this field. We have used fixed wing aircraft to do thermal scans looking for things like illicit sewer discharges, water line leaks, and springs/cave system discharges.   As others have mentioned this is still an emerging role for general purpose drones, but since your project more than likely won't need super specific detection limits I assume that you should be able to get this working. 

 

I'll follow this with interest. I am working on offering some of the same services to local municipal utility districts.

 

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  • 7 months later...
  • 1 month later...

We have used the 19mm 640x512 XT from DJI with our M210 for several things so far. We have done training on search and rescue and have had one live mission with mixed success. The "victim" was a runaway juvenile that hid in a shed so, ultimately, the IR sensor wasn't going to pick him out. We were able to pick out every search team and other bystanders and were nearby when the "victim" got cold enough to give up and caught that with the IR sensor.  We have also used it to check for illicit discharges from a geothermal system into a detention pond. The environmental conditions were such at the time that nothing was detected, but we now have a baseline to compare to when conditions are such that the system would be discharging. 

We are going to be working with a local water utility to see if we can do any kind of leak detection. 

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  • 6 months later...

Hi @MartyL

Using a drone to detect leaks sounds like a great idea. Have you considered looking at the DJI Mavic Dual Enterprise drone? This model features a dual sensor setup that has a 4K sensor and a thermal sensor developed by FLIR. This could be a good option as you can view the 4K and thermal video feed at the same time. 

Here is a link for the Mavic Dual Enterprise: https://www.dji.com/mavic-2-enterprise?pbc=IN4xQqec?pm=link

I hope this helps!

- Chase 

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Thank you Chase. At some of my sites,  I am flying in relatively high winds, so am using the M200.  I am in the process of gathering and analyzing data and am pretty confident that the workflow I have developed will be helpful for managing water leaks.  The DJI Pilot software has its issues, but with time I think better options will be available.

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  • 1 month later...

Hi @MartyL i am also looking at using drones with thermal cameras to detect water leaks. Have you tried this with the Mavic Dual Enterprise? I am looking at purchasing one for that purpose. I was wondering if you had any success with any other drone? Or are you only using the m200 for this?

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  • 1 year later...

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