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Exactly how much is visual inspection data worth

Editorial Feature

Exactly how much is visual inspection data worth?

Words By: Scopito ©

It can be easy to look for a one-and-done solution, when it comes to pole-maintenance. But is it worth it?

In most cases, cooperatives are missing out on huge benefits, by not using their inspection data properly.

This article investigates the short- and long term advantages of using drones for inspections, coupled with Data Management software for analysis and storage.

Exactly how much is visual inspection data worth

1. Short term benefits

We consider short term benefits immediate; the benefits that you will see during the inspection and analysis.

Time saved

Pedernales Electric Cooperative has seen the following numbers from their use of drones and Data Management software:

  • Inspections carried out 88% faster on average.
  • Each pole inspected in 10 seconds with drone vs. 15 minutes for lineman.
  • Whole process of inspection was at least 80% cheaper with a drone.
  • Return on investment was 97% for the first year.
  • The data was provided to us by Eric Bitzko, System Maintenance Supervisor at Pedernales Electric cooperative.

    Money saved

    Using drones and Data Management software for inspections, as opposed to traditional methods:

    – A minimum saving of $2 per distribution pole inspected and analysed.

    – Savings increased with number of poles, up to $10 per pole.

    – Data acquisition speed was improved by 40% using a pilot and drone compared to a lineman.

    Numbers are from a recent experiment Scopito conducted in collaboration with a Virginia-based coop.

    Evidential data

    Data that is analysed and stored on a secure server, can always be revisited to determine where mistakes were made, and revised if needed.

    With Scopito, detected faults are easily dispensed to work order tickets for the maintenance team. This improves workflow reliability, and the quality of fault information that repair-crews have available.

    Easily understandable data

    As one of the Drone Service Providers using Scopito, told us recently:

    The GIS information is really a game-changer for coops.
    Humans are visual; when we can see a satellite image of the line, see a structure on the ground, we begin to visualize where we are spatially. That makes it a whole lot simpler to look at images and data from an inspection, and really understand it.


    Snapshot of the Scopito platform.

    Another DSP client of Scopito was told the following, when he flew an inspection job for an American coop:

    I want a paper report. I want to see the issues, where they are and what they are. I want it to be properly annotated and know the GPS-coordinates.
    I know this is probably impossible for you to do.
    – The coop client

    Nah, not really.” was Curtis’ response, as he pulled up his Scopito report.


    You can see the full pdf report here.

    2. Long term benefits

    Long term benefits are considered those seen within the first year. Their value grows as the amount of inspections increases.

    Once you start collecting data regularly, your Utility will be able to use it for predictive maintenance and risk mitigation.

    Better predictive maintenance with historical data.


    Asset overview and hazard assessment.

    Once you start inspecting regularly, you can increase the level of detail, with which you analyse the data, moving towards a predictive- and eventually preventive maintenance focus.

    This is the approach taken by Pedernales Electric Cooperative:

  • Inspect for failed equipment
  • Inspect with ‘best practices’ in mind
  • Inspect to upgrade and improve efficiency
  • This is where we start working with preventive maintenance and really seeing results skyrocketing.

    Keeping inspection data in Scopito, allows you to start seeing trends over time. You can use these trends to discover more about your operations, the obstacles, and the opportunities. 


    Extending asset life

    The added advantage of having better inspection data is that repairs become much cheaper.

    Being able to effectively identify a faulty part, means you can replace that exact part, whereas you might earlier have had to replace an entire section of the asset.

    Early detection of eroding parts, makes adding to the assets lifetime highly realistic.


    Visual inspection data is worth thousands of hours and millions of dollars to cooperatives, that are willing to invest in it. Are you?