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Ohio Turns to Drones In Light of Recent Building Concerns

Unlike several other major American cities, Cleveland and Cincinnati have not implemented building regulations concerning exterior facades. This oversight has proved to be exceedingly dangerous, as decades of abrasive Midwestern weather have taken toil. Particularly after recent disturbing incidents, local officials and citizens are anxious to make their cities safe once again.

Last December, a commercial warehouse building in Cincinnati partially collapsed due to accumulated rain and moisture let in by an exterior wall. While no one was hurt, the incident drew attention to the many neighborhoods suffering from outdated construction, substandard materials, and plain age. Workers and inspectors often struggle to navigate these areas -- fearful of falling debris and unstable floors. Additionally, Cincinnati’s Department of Trade and Development is severely understaffed: it has 22 workers to inspect over 150,000 buildings.

Similarly, just this month, the façade of a high-rise in Cleveland came crashing down onto the street. Again, nothing was hurt or damaged apart from a parked car. However, people are beginning to realize it’ll take more than lucky flukes to keep buildings properly maintained and passersby safe. Others are realizing just how fast even new or renovated buildings can deteriorate, necessitating regular inspections.

While inspections can cost tens of thousands of dollars, the potential human cost is far greater. Cities like New York and Chicago only enacted ordinances on building exteriors after many harrowing injuries and deaths. Cleveland and Cincinnati are both exploring programs so that the situation doesn’t come to this.

In addition, new advancements in drone technology are making the inspection process more effective and efficient. Equipped with high-resolution cameras and thermal-infrared sensors, drones are able to identify structural problems even in the most dangerous or difficult sites. Supplementing human inspectors, the time and energy traditionally needed is being greatly reduced. Many costly safety requirements like cages and harnesses are also being cut, leading to better value at a lower cost. All of these factors make drones a revolutionary tool for regular inspections.

Many companies are realizing this. Construction firms and several architecture firms have also begun using drones for building inspection. Countless others will no doubt follow soon.

Justin Wood

JPW Design Studio, California

Minimalist Website Designer