Volgenau School of Engineering
George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Designing a system for safer and more efficient building inspections

May 8, 2017

Building inspectors like these could benefit from the use of the new student-designed system that uses drones to inspect hard-to-reach places on structures.

A team of senior design students from the Department of Systems Engineering and Operations Research Department won first place in "Systems Design" track at the prestigious General Donald R. Keith Memorial Capstone Conference held at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, May 4, 2017.

The Mason team of Ju Yeon Park (lead), James Lange, Okan Koc, Firas Al-Bakha, won first place for their project "Design of an Enhanced Defect Identification System for Commercial Building Construction." 

The team’s system aims to help building inspectors with their jobs. Currently, when a building is under construction it must be inspected every day by human inspectors. These individuals must climb every floor of a building and look out of the windows to spot defects such as structural cracks, loose nuts and bolts, inadequate sealant application, and water damage. In some cases, the inspectors must put on a harness and rappel down the face of the building. When inspectors find defects the only archive of the defect is the inspector’s written report.

The students’ proposed system combines image-processing software to a small drone, which allows the inspector to examine the exterior of the building from several angles and to archive the inspection from safe location on the ground. A stochastic simulation of the process showed a 44 percent reduction in time and cost of the inspection, and 36 percent improvement in accuracy.

The students’ next step will be to find venture capital funding to complete testing of the product and provide commercial services.