Michael Baker International has expanded its inspection services with the purchase of a Topcon Falcon 8 unmanned aircraft system (UAS). The company says the new purchase offers a new perspective for its pilots to achieve highly precise aerial imagery and mapping during the inspection of infrastructure elements for customers.

“Michael Baker has an extensive history of performing inspections, having literally written the book on bridge inspection training for the Federal Highway Administration. As new technologies have emerged, including UAS, the company has been at the forefront of adopting and incorporating those practices into our existing capabilities to enhance our full continuum of innovative solutions,” says Robert Hanson, senior vice president and market leader for Michael Baker’s geospatial practice.

Combined with Michael Baker’s mobile and static LiDAR systems for data collection, the integration of this Falcon 8 creates a safer, more intricate solution for inspection and mapping. By utilizing the system’s flight stability and high-resolution 32-megapixel DSLR camera, Michael Baker pilots can capture more precise imaging and video in tight spaces, challenging environments and windy situations.

The rotary-wing UAS features eight rotors, three individual inertial measurement units (IMU) to calculate and fix the device’s position, fully automated flight routes in both two- and three-dimensions, and precise structure analysis and damage detection. Operating as a two-person team, Michael Baker inspectors — one piloting the flight and the other using 3D goggles for a first person view (FPV) — can establish unprecedented viewpoints for data capturing imagery.

Additionally, the Falcon 8’s integrated thermal camera creates new service offerings for Michael Baker’s clients as the company can monitor for heat loss and thermal leakage in concrete and pipeline inspections, and conduct heat surveys of buildings looking to achieve LEED certification. 

Michael Baker is deploying the new UAS as part of two new contract wins: a statewide contract from the Nevada Department of Transportation for digital aerial imagery and video, and/or other remotely sensed data; and a task order with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation for determining the feasibility for use of UAS in bridge inspections and bridge inspection procedures.

Additionally, the company will use the system across multiple markets for a host of structural inspection projects, including bridges, buildings, towers, water control systems and retaining walls.

“With the purchase of the Falcon 8 UAS, Michael Baker is now one of seven firms in North America to use this system, which allows us to offer an advanced, highly-engineered inspection solution for engineering projects,” Hanson says.

About Michael Baker International

Michael Baker International is a global provider of engineering and consulting services, which include planning, architectural, environmental, construction, program management, and full life-cycle support services, as well as information technology and communications services and solutions. The company provides its comprehensive range of services and solutions in support of U.S. federal, state and municipal governments, foreign allied governments, and a wide range of commercial clients.  Michael Baker International has more than 6,000 employees in more than 90 locations across the U.S. and internationally.