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Canadian company battles energy-leaking high-rises with infrared drone cams

by Michael Willoughby

A Canadian company is using drones to spot heat leaking from high-rise buildings.

QEA Tech, based in Ontario, has created “a synchronised digital and infrared camera mounted to a drone [which] scans the entire building exterior and an in-house application software based on advanced mathematical algorithms translates every pixel in infrared images to a quantified energy loss figure.”

In other words, a camera maps the heat from the building facade to spot energy-wasting windows and other holes.

Omid Alaei, vice-president of QEA Tech told Corporate Knights that “as much as 50% of a building’s energy losses involve the so-called building envelope: windows, exterior walls, balconies, doors, and so on.

“QEA Tech’s engineers developed a thermal imaging software system that can be loaded onto a digital camera-equipped drone. It flies around the exterior of a building, taking pictures to create what a three-dimensional heat map. The algorithm detects areas where there seems to be excessive heat loss and compares these to the so-called R values of those portions of the building – i.e. the rated insulation value of a particular window or segment of exterior wall,” the publication notes.

“When the system notices a significant difference, QEA Tech’s technology not only pinpoints the places where the leaks are occurring but also estimates the return on investment associated with a retrofit. Alaei cites one building where the drones located a piece of wall that was missing insulation. The annual cost of the heat loss was about $2,000 while the installation of the replacement insulation set the property owner back by just $500 – a clear win. (The scans themselves range in price from about $5,000 to $30,000, depending on the size of the building).

“Such scans, he adds, have become increasingly popular among property managers working for insurance companies and other institutional investors purchasing multi-unit residential buildings. “We’re targeting high rises because there’s no [other] solution for that,” Alaei told Corporate Knights.

Image credit: QEA Tech

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