UMass Conducts Energy Audit by Drong - Smart Energy Decisions

Energy Efficiency  -  April 9, 2021

UMass Conducts Energy Audit by Drone

A team of faculty and student researchers from UMass Lowell’s Department of Mechanical Engineering used a drone to identify and prioritize cost-saving repairs and energy-efficiency projects on campus.

A report from the University noted a recent 45-minute mission of a four-propeller drone equipped with a $13,000 infrared camera to take the images which would be stitched together digitally to create a thermal map of North Campus showing where buildings and underground steam pipes are losing heat and costing money.

“It’s a very high-level — no pun intended — energy audit that gives us a broad view of any issues,” says Dan Abrahamson, the university’s energy manager.

The project, a collaboration between Facilities Management and the Rist Institute for Sustainability and Energy (RISE), covered the North and South campuses, which both have central steam plants that heat most of the buildings via an underground steam loop. Buildings on the East Campus rely on their own boilers or furnaces. The flights were conducted at night to avoid sunlight interfering with the sensor signal. 

Results showed a bright red spot between Pinanski Hall and Costello that signaled a potential underground steam pipe leak. There was also noticeable heat loss coming from the east-facing side of the Olney Science Center.

“This could lead to some pretty great energy projects to tighten up our buildings,” says Abrahamson, who adds that the thermal images can also show overheating electrical equipment, such as generators, that need maintenance.

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