Asset inspection is undoubtedly an important part of running a business since it contributes to take necessary precautions and accomplish maintenance prevention program. However, manual inspection work is often time-consuming (long shutdown hours), costly (reduced production and revenue from shutdown time), dangerous for the workers, and usually incomplete due to the inability to access confined spaces, etc. Professional drones provide a much safer and cost-efficient solution for industrial inspections.
Since each industry has a specific structure and different requirements for its inspection, the type of inspection drones being used will also vary accordingly. Besides its famous use for industrial inspections, our high quality and professional drones also have many other applications in many different industries, which include oil and gas, civil infrastructures, renewable energy, mining, onshore operations, external load lift operations (delivery drones), as well as aerial photogrammetry in agriculture.
1) Oil and gas
The oil and gas industry is one of the industries with the fastest growing drone applications, for instance, oil and gas exploration and operation, as well as inspecting and monitoring pipelines.
a. Oil and gas exploration and operation:
As for oil and gas exploration, drones can be used to conduct aerial, underground and undersea explorations and provide high quality footages. These visual images allow companies to get real time updates of the operations such as construction work or to detect hazards or issues that require immediate attention.
In addition, drone operators can perform water sampling in order to discover the presence of oil products and create 3D maps of prospective sites and surroundings, which serve to help pinpoint exactly where they should locate or build their facilities.
As for oil and gas operation, with the use of drones, companies will be able to inspect buildings, tanks, as well as confined spaces such as inside the tanks and pipes while these facilities are still operating. As a result, they can minimize shutdown time and increase productivity, as well as ensuring safety for workers for not having to access dangerous places.
One of our projects was at a Brazilian corporation in the petroleum industry, where we spent an entire day inspecting confined spaces & an underground pipe of an accumulated dam using Elios Drone. Lots of data were collected after only such a short amount of time, and these data would help asset managers significantly improve their planning and decision-making processes.
b. Inspecting and monitoring pipelines:
Another important aspect of oil and gas industry is to ensure the quality and efficiency of pipelines. Before the invention of drones, pipeline inspections were a lengthy, complicated and costly process, as well as exposing inspectors to a lot of risks in difficult terrain, confined and hard-to-access areas.
Drones are now used to carry out regular inspections, monitoring the current state of pipelines, as well as preventing unfortunate accidents, for example, detecting leaks and spillages right in time to evacuate and protect civilians from fire incidents and toxic gases.
2) Civil Infrastructure:
Over the last few years, there has been a significant increase in the use of drones to visually monitor construction and operation of buildings, bridges, and other types of civil infrastructure systems. These Unmanned Aerial Vehicles UAVs (drones) can capture very large collections of footages (images and videos), along with sophisticated software that process the visual data into 3D models.
Construction sites need to be monitored continuously and project managers should have around the clock data in hand in order to make sure every step is done correctly in order to prevent damages in the long run.
Civil infrastructures inspections (such as shopping malls, arterial traffic route or bridges, etc.) are extremely important and need to be conducted frequently to keep the public safe from any unforeseen accidents since many human lives are at risk if something goes wrong (a window glass breaking, ceiling falling, etc.).
One of the projects carried out by XD4SOLUTIONS was the inspection of a shopping mall (image above) in the state of Espirito Santo of Brazil. By using our Elios Drone, we were able to conduct an extremely thorough internal and external inspection of the asset. As we can see from the picture, our drone is being used instead of manual inspection to access hard to reach area. Combined with our 3D model building software, we generated a detailed technical report and an easy visualization 3D model stating all the anomalies, as well as rating their severities.
3) Renewable energy:
As our society is more and more aware of the importance of protecting the environment and embracing the concept of sustainability, renewable energy, such as wind power, solar panel, water dam, etc. is becoming an essential source of energy, replacing fossil fuels such as natural gas, oil and coal.
The wind power and solar power industries are continuously growing, with wind power at a rate of nearly 10% annual growth, to provide energy to millions of homes and facilities. Being equipped with high definition camera, as well as thermal sensors, drone is a very helpful tool in wind turbine inspection or thermographic applications like solar energy as shown below.
The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle can be used effectively in many scenarios, from the initial measurement of new constructions or reconstructions in utility to routine inspections, as well as surveying occurred damages.
Similar to other industries, the use of drone helps avoid fatal accidents caused by manual inspections in high locations, as well as reducing inspection time, increasing efficiency and saving on maintenance cost of these facilities.
Another industry where drone applications are useful is mining. Drones are proving their importance in the mining industry as a more efficient replacement for ground-based survey methods, can be used for maintenance, monitoring and mapping. Workers no longer have to enter risky, hazardous places or confined spaces with very little oxygen & hard to access, extremely dangerous if using manual inspection.
With professional drones, XD4SOLUTIONS can perform underground inspections, as well as well as confined spaces. The Elios Drone will be used for internal inspection due to its unlimited access and its special design (the protective, collision-resilient cage) for indoor spaces, and the Intel Falcon 8 Drone for external inspection for its capacity to fly for a longer duration.
Onshore industry composes of many smaller and related industries where drones can be used for various inspections. For instance, companies can use drones to measure, monitor and track materials for pulp and paper industry, which help provide real-time data regarding inventories to improve operation efficiency.
Commercial drones are also becoming more and more famous in the steel industry since asset managers can perform visual inspections without having to shut down the facilities or disturb the production process at all. In addition, chemical firms will need drones to inspect their tanks, boilers, factory roofs, as well as industrial sheds and chimneys.
Our team XD4SOLUTIONS had a great opportunity to give a thorough presentation at one of the world’s largest steel producers, where we introduced them many great technologies and applications of the Elios drone.
Other onshore projects that we did include the inspection of boilers of an electric energy company for two full days in an industrial plant, as we the inspection of the inside are of two metallic chimneys at a steel pipe manufacturer.
6) External Load Lift (Delivery Drones):
Besides traditional use like visual inspections, drones with heavy payload capacity are being used for strategic transportation of cargoes, as well as samples from platforms to platforms, mainly for the oil and gas industry. Besides that, drones can deliver medicine to oil rigs s or plan escape route for emergency cases.
Agriculture has always been a vital industry all around the world, as well as in Brazil. Many heavy machines and automation technologies were invented in order to increase productivity while reducing human labor significantly.
To take it to a step further, farmers now can use drones for various applications in agriculture, such as spraying, sowing, farm surveillance, monitoring any shortage of fertilizer or even collecting data on crop growth. Equipped with high quality camera and sufficient payload, the drone can easily monitor or detect disease, pest, irrigation and fertilizer condition.
Drone use will immediately save on cost and time consumed, for instance, agriculture spraying drone can replace the traditional pesticide sprayer by 40times faster, as well as saving 90% water and 30%-40% pesticide.
In addition, aerial photogrammetry, a technique of surveying that deals with production of maps such as planimetric or topographic maps by compiling number of photographs taken in that area, is also very common in agriculture for exploration or planning process.
Industrial drones can be used in many different industries from oil and gas, renewable energy to agriculture for various purposes. The common goals are to provide safety for workers and operators by preventing them from going into confined or hazardous places, increase productivity and efficiency while saving cost and shutdown times, as well as facilitating asset maintenance processes and ensuring public safety by inspecting civil infrastructures regularly.