About the project
Why was drone capture introduced into Welsh Water?
I have worked with Welsh Water now for 12 years, and in that time, I have come to appreciate the genuine dedication of its leaders to improving our services for customers and improving the environment so our children and theirs are able to enjoy clean water well into the future. The path we are on is aligned to our 2050 vision of becoming a truly world class, resilient and sustainable water service for the benefit of future generations.
Combining previous experience in the British Army’s Royal Artillery UAV regiments and my understanding and appreciation of Welsh Water’s mission, I knew drones could offer the organisation big rewards in terms of risk reduction, productivity, and cost reduction, in turn, helping us achieve our environmental goals. As an organisation that doesn’t have shareholders, if drones can reduce asset management costs, then we have more money to put back into improving our business, our environment, and keeping customer bills down.
In 2020, I approached our CTO to encourage a greater use of drones at Welsh Water, and after putting together a business case and program of work, I was given the direction to start building our internal Aerial Services team.
Precision Reality Twins (PRT), Data Acquisition, Reporting and Project Management
Versus the traditional capture time of four days
Time to report
Versus the traditional multiple weeks
High-fidelity, Interactive model
Versus the "no images, report only" output
Versus the traditional £18k for scaffolding alone
Why did you add Trendspek to your service mix?
After we started building our internal team, I came across Trendspek and reached out to the Australian company. I investigated other software providers that offered 3D modelling, but was impressed by how much Trendspek was really doubling down on this new idea of Precision Reality Twins – better than existing digital twins.
After looking further into leading global software providers in the market, I booked a demo with the Trendspek team, and upon meeting their experts and seeing what the platform could offer comparatively, I knew it provided much more than we even expected.
Arranging the demo was very easy, I didn’t have to chase anyone at all, Trendspek’s water asset expert, Adam got in touch and quickly understood what we want to get out of the platform and that we’re early in our implementation program. He and the broader team provided so much support and guidance, and that service was almost as valuable as the Trendspek platform itself.
What was your first project with Trendspek?
The first time I used Trendspek was in 2021. I was putting together the business case with the support of the Trendspek team. They did a simple pilot with us, at no expense, purely to let us see the benefits their software offers.
We initially captured a chimney stack – 30 metres high – at one of our wastewater works. It was surrounded by cladding to protect it from the environment, and we needed to assess the condition of that cladding, the nuts, bolts and other parts.
For that first project we used quite old, non-commercial drones and didn’t know a lot about capturing assets for the purpose of precision reality twins, but the resulting capture still included enough detail to inspect the cladding.
Based on that result, Trendspek provided us further guidance on capture – everything from how close to the asset to fly, to how to overlap the images.
Since then, we have purchased updated drones and continue to perfect our capture technique.
“I’ve never seen anything like it – nowhere close to what Trendspek can offer. I show my colleagues and they are blown away by the resolution – half the time I have to explain that it’s not a real ‘photo’ that it’s data that creates a 3D model.”
How does Trendspek compare to traditional methods of inspection?
If we were using the traditional method to complete the initial inspection of the chimney stack, it would be a minimum of £18,000 just to erect the scaffolding for the project, which would take two weeks alone to set up.
With drones and Trendspek, we captured the data in under two hours, with no scaffolding required, and had the model ready that same day. Most importantly, we reduced risk – and that’s an area we really focus heavily on at Welsh Water – making the business as safe as possible.
Even if the scaffolding was cheaper, we’d still have to strap workers in and put them up at heights, and at risk.
Adding to the challenge of traditional direct visual inspections, they don’t always take photos, sometimes they just make a report as they inspect, meaning a lot of knowledge is lost to inspector memory, and when that engineer leaves the business so does that deeper awareness of the asset.
With Trendspek, those images, that data and model, are always there to look at again and again, which also means we can compare captures taken over time to track defects and damage.
What other projects are you piloting?
After that initial chimney stack, we were commissioned by the internal clean and wastewater innovation teams to model 20 operational assets. If the business sees the benefit as that team does, this will then role out to much bigger projects, and regular risk-based reinspection.
“We weren’t planning on recruiting a full pilot for another year, but the business has embraced this new technology so much that we’ve had to bring the team expansion forward to meet the demand.”
Better. From every angle.
At Trendspek, we understand the importance of assets, because to us, our clients are our most valuable assets. We have worked in
close partnership with some of the world’s biggest asset management companies, delivering our service, their way.