A couple of weeks ago I began to have some knee pain. It started after a very nice 7 mile run from my cabin to one of the local lakes and back. I tried the traditional treatments of rest, elevation, ice and aspirin. After a few weeks, there was no real improvement, so I started searching for an orthopedic surgeon. I found one. Because all of this is going on during the COVID-19 outbreak, this place was offering web-based visits. I didn’t think that this was a good choice for me because I’d likely need to be x-rayed, poked and prodded.
Yesterday (as I write this), I was chatting with a friend about how engineers may be able to offer this type of services too. Remote engineering could provide very economical options for certain services. We are talking about something more advanced than Zoom (although web-based meetings obviously have their place). You could imagine video conferencing as a first step following an emergency at the mine. You could get live feed of the conditions at the mine using one of the video chat platforms. If you can add in a drone, even better. Drones can go where people can’t. They are getting better all the time. I can imagine this being used for periodic inspections by the engineer of record, or independent reviewer. And there are other remote information systems, like satellite imagery.
Could you miss something important if you are not physically at the site? Yes, of course you could. You could also miss something important if you were there, but you couldn’t attend to an inaccessible area. In any case, you still have to use engineers with the correct expertise and experience.
I’m not trying to be controversial. I’m trying to create a conversation and new line of thinking. Just like with my knee, there will always be times when a physical presence will be better.