There are three questions that all inspectors must answer when performing internal inspections.
These questions are:
- Are there any defects in the asset?
- What are the dimensions of the defect(s) found?
- Where are the defects located in the asset?
Helping inspectors answer these questions when conducting internal inspections is central to the work we do at Flyability.
In fact, these three questions have provided our product roadmap since we launched in 2014—keep reading to learn how.
Question 1: Are there any defects in the asset?
Answering the first question—Are there any defects in the asset?—was our top priority when we launched Flyability.
To help inspectors working in confined spaces answer that question we created the Elios, a caged drone made for flying indoors that allowed inspectors to enter an asset and collect visual data remotely.
The Elios was the first drone of its kind, designed specifically for inspectors to use in confined spaces so they could see whether there were any defects in the asset they were inspecting—without having to physically enter it.
Question 2: What are the dimensions of the defect?
Seeing a defect is just the first step for inspectors.
The next step is to understand the defect’s dimensions, so that maintenance personnel can make determinations about what should be done—whether the defect should be fixed, monitored, or more closely inspected.
And that’s why helping inspectors to collect data for the second question they must answer—What are the dimensions of the defect?—was our next goal after creating the Elios.
To do this, we sought the advice of inspectors in the field, collecting exhaustive rounds of feedback about the needs for collecting visual data in internal environments to learn exactly what kinds of details inspectors needed to collect.
The result of this research was the Elios 2, an indoor drone that came with several features to help inspectors working in confined spaces understand the dimensions of the defects they found in their work, allowing them to answer that second question.
These new features include:
- 2D measurements. The Elios 2’s visual data allows inspectors to make accurate measurements, providing an accuracy of ±10% of the measured length with a maximum of ±5mm accuracy.
- Photogrammetric models. Elios 2’s visual data can be used to create photogrammetric models, which can help inspectors understand the dimensions and details of the defects they find in their inspection footage.
- Improved Lighting. The Elios 2 can provide up to 10,000 Lumens of light, making it much brighter and easier to see inside assets. It also comes with an oblique lighting feature that helps inspectors see the texture and depth of the objects being inspected—a feature that’s crucial for understanding the dimensions of defects found in an asset.
- Improved Image Quality. The camera on the Elios 2 provides 4K video so that inspectors can see the tiniest cracks and fissures in an asset, as well as providing HD live streaming and a range of 180 degrees to allow for full coverage of the object being inspected.
Question 3: Where are the defects located in the asset?
The last question for inspectors—Where are the defects located within an asset?—is the hardest one to answer when working in confined spaces.
The use of new Remote Visual Inspection tools like the Elios 2 to locate defects during internal inspections brings with it inherent localization issues, due to the lack of indoor positioning systems like GPS.
This means that inspectors may identify a defect when reviewing video footage collected by a drone, but still have trouble knowing exactly where the defect is located within the asset.
Locating defects is even harder inside assets with uniform surfaces, like tanks or chimneys because there are no obvious markers to help indicate location.
To find the location of defects found in video footage inspectors will often combine several data points, including:
- Barometric measurements
- Reference points found in the video feed
- Using approximations of the speed of the drone and time passed
. . . and even with all this information, getting the location right can still be challenging.
To help inspectors working in confined spaces answer this final question we created Inspector 3.0, a software that allows inspectors to quickly create sparse 3D models that show the exact location of defects found during inspections.
Inspector 3.0 gives inspectors:
- Usable locational data—know right where your defects are located within an asset without any guesswork.
- Short processing time—20-40 minutes depending on amount of data).
- Easy data collection—no extra flight path or data collection considerations.
- POIs (Points of Interest)—accessible by clicking on points in the model.
With the launch of Inspector 3.0 earlier this year we’ve now created products to help inspectors answer all three questions they’re faced with on the job.
But our work isn’t done.
We’re constantly researching new ways to improve the data collection our drones provide as well as the ways inspectors can use that data.
As we go on to develop new drone technology and new software, these three questions will continue to define our roadmap, helping us make sure that the things we build will help inspectors working in confined spaces do their jobs quicker, safer, and more efficiently.