Inspection of enclosed spaces such as tanks is laborious and expensive, requires extensive planning and following safety regulations, results in significant downtime and poses many potential hazards. Depending on the relevant regulations, most tanks are inspected every five to 10 years.
Unmanned aerial systems, or drones, offer a very real solution for the inspection of confined areas, and remove a large amount of the disruption usually associated with the task.
Carrying out a tank inspection using a drone allows asset teams to closely inspect all surfaces without needing to physically enter the space. This removes the necessity to empty, flush and air the tank before humans can safely enter, possibly taking days to implement, and negates the need to erect scaffolding inside the tank and the risk of associated accidents, both during erection and dismantling and when a team is climbing within the confined space.
A drone can be quickly deployed to capture images and video to allow asset inspectors to view all internal spaces, including fitting pipes, wall and roof junctions, welding, rafters and the integrity of the fabric in as little as two hours, without the need for workers to spend any time in a highly hazardous environment.
Because a drone can view internal surfaces and structures from all angles, it can provide superior imaging and the capacity to provide a close-up of areas not viewable by the human eye. Images and video are captured by high-definition cameras that can be fully inclined and rotated to ensure views of even the most hard-to-access areas, and advanced software allows for the production of detailed inspection reports from the data collected.
Shell estimates that 98 per cent of the costs are related to preparation and health and safety, and only two per cent to the inspection itself, so removing the need for preparation, scaffolding and the time taken for humans to enter the space leads to a cost reduction amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Drones such as The Elios are enclosed in a decoupled cage that allows them to absorb collisions and bounce and roll on surfaces. Depending on the model used, there is often no need for the operator to have a professional pilot’s licence. They are easily used with minimal training, allowing asset teams to easily deploy them and carry out all aspects of the surveillance. Drones can also be flown beyond the visual line of sight.
Thanks to the dramatically lowered costs of drone inspections, along with the speed at which surveillance can be delivered, it is possible to carry out checks far more regular basis. This allows assets to be proactively assessed for weaknesses that could cause future potential issues, reducing the likelihood of emergency incidents.
Nexxis is a solution-focused provider that brings the latest in technical advances to industries across Australia. Based in Perth, its core business is an extensive range of inspection, testing and measuring equipment for the oil and gas, chemical, mining and manufacturing industries.
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