How Commercial Drones Are Being Used
For Both Internal and External Inspections
Indoor drones like Flyability’s Elios 2 (shown above) are being used in confined space inspections as a safer option than human-entry.
For example, drones have been adopted by the food & beverage industry for use in grain bin inspections. Traditionally, a person might conduct grain bin inspections by rope access or by building costly scaffolding.
But accidents—and even fatalities—have caused businesses to reassess how visual inspections of grain bins and similar assets are being performed.
In the internal inspection of a grain bin, a drone can help inspectors do the following:
- Look for holes in the walls and roof
- Look for corrosion and overall damage of the corrugated structure
- Assess the amount of unusable grain at the bottom of the bin
- Assess the amount of grain stuck to the walls and ladders
- Assess the condition of the temperature cables
- Examine the pit concrete and base concrete structure
- Inspect the roof feeding port
- Determine the overall condition of the grain bin
By sending in a drone instead of a person, companies can decrease the time it takes to complete the inspection from seven days to just one day, saving thousands of dollars in reduced downtimes.
With the efficiency, safety, and cost savings that come from using drones for inspections, more and more industries are adopting drone technology to gather visual data instead of using people.
Drones are also being used by the same industries mentioned above for external inspections of assets and materials.
Aerial data is also a great way to see how something is progressing, whether it’s a crop or a construction site.
For example, drones provide a huge benefit for construction sites by:
- Quickly spotting problems onsite
- Increasing the regularity of reporting
- Increasing the accuracy in reporting
- Improving safety on site by quickly spotting problems
- And Improving efficiency of operations
One of the biggest benefits of using a drone for external inspections of a construction site is avoiding delays. With the regular data collecting and reporting drones enable, companies can easily spot problems in advance and avoid running over budget.
Various industries are adopting drone technology to conduct indoor and outdoor visual inspections of assets and materials.
Inspections are a critical part of maintaining an asset, and they are often required by law—especially for assets that can explode, like boilers and pressure vessels.
Drones are a safer tool for inspectors to use because drones can replace the need for humans to enter dangerous spaces.
In addition to improving safety, drones can also save companies a lot of money in inspections by decreasing turnaround time and getting operations back up and running more quickly than possible using traditional methods.
What Is A Visual Inspection?
A visual inspection is an examination of an asset or material by the naked eye.
This visual information informs inspectors on what areas might need further inspection or mechanical work within an industrial asset, like a nuclear reactor or storage tank.
But a drone equipped with an inspection camera can be used in place of a human to collect this visual data, because of its ability to capture high quality video footage and photos. In fact, visual inspections are by far the most common type of inspection that inspectors conduct with a drone these days.
Now that we’ve covered the primary type of data drones are being used to collect, let’s take a look at how commercial drones are being used for both internal and external inspections.
The most common use for drones in internal inspections is in confined spaces.
A confined space is defined as having a hazardous environment, containing a material that can engulf a human, or having a meandering configuration that can easily entrap a human.
These kinds of spaces exist in many industries including oil & gas, chemical, power & utilities, mining, maritime, food & beverage, and sewers.
Here are some of the types of assets that are inspected on a construction site:
- The building itself
- Fencing and safety conditions that prevent civilians from entering the site
- Safety conditions for the workers to prevent injury
Drones are an incredible tool that inspectors can use in many applications.
Their ability to save money, lives, and downtimes makes them one of the smartest technologies used for both internal and external visual inspections today.
As time passes, we’re sure to see commercial drones be used more and more for inspections.
Some day, drones and other robotics solutions could completely eliminate the need for people to endanger themselves by conducting inspections inside dangerous confined spaces or at heights—and this is the future we are working toward in the drone industry.