RTI International Story of Innovation

Challenge
Revealing the Entire Picture

On both commercial and residential properties, energy audits have become a popular technique to analyze and identify opportunities to reduce a building’s footprint. Traditional methods of conducting audits at commercial facilities have been time RTI_Photo.jpgconsuming and resource intensive. In most cases, auditors walk through each building to measure performance statistics and analyze sources of heat loss. The auditors also rely on energy data delivered by the utilities each month. These methods may uncover certain issues but often do not provide the whole picture of energy consumption and can be cost prohibitive. 

Solution
It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's a...Drone

RTI International is developing an innovative drone research program with a variety applications. As an example, RTI is testing the feasibility of using drones to measure emissions released from smokestacks and other industrial activities. These innovative applications have the potential to disrupt a series of markets and transform the way companies like RTI conduct business.

In the energy-efficiency world, RTI is utilizing its new drone program to develop procedures to measure and model heat loss drone.pngfrom buildings. This program is seen as the convergence between hardware/sensor development, building efficiency, and energy modeling and economics.

Specifically, RTI is using lab-quality research sensors, which are mounted on drones and then flown over buildings on RTI’s main campus in Research Triangle Park, NC. The images captured from the drone allow RTI to analyze the heat loss of each building. Using this data, RTI can begin to paint a bigger picture of individual buildings by comparing building age and design with actual energy usage numbers. This data will help RTI International more quickly identify opportunities for efficiency improvements on commercial and residential structures. More specifically, certain points of heat loss will help direct facilities management teams to areas on the building envelope that need attention through improvements to seals, insulation, and windows.

 

Impact
Buzzing Past the Competition

This solution has the potential to disrupt the entire energy auditing market. Previous methods of building analyses consumed large amounts of time and money. This method has the potential to dramatically reduce the amount of time required to analyze entire buildings, campuses, and villages, thus cutting down on expenses as well. These drones provide perspectives and data unimaginable just a few years ago, thereby providing a fuller picture of the energy consumption at each individual building.

This innovative drone program can transform an abundance of applications across the cleantech sector. As RTI’s drone program continues to expand, the opportunities for collaboration with other cleantech leaders in grid, solar, water, and transportation will grow. 

 

About RTI International

RTI International is an independent, nonprofit research institute dedicated to improving the human condition. Clients rely on us to answer questions that demand an objective and multidisciplinary approach—one that integrates expertise across the social and laboratory sciences, engineering, and international development.

Combining scientific rigor and technical proficiency, we deliver reliable data, thorough analysis, innovative methods, novel technologies, and sustainable programs that help clients inform public policy and ground practice in evidence. We scale our approach to fit the demands of each project, delivering the power of a global leader and the passion of a local partner.

 

View a printable version of this story of innovation here.

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