5 Things a Drone Inspection Can Do That Manual Inspections can't

Remote visual inspections are leading the way toward safer, more efficient, and more cost-effective inspections. In addition to being required by regulatory bodies, regular inspection can help prolong the asset life cycle. They also allow inspections of hard- or impossible-to-reach parts of your facilities. 

Why should you invest in a visual inspection drone? These five stories may convince you! 

Remote visual inspections are safe and enable non-destructive testing that prolongs asset lifecycle.

5 Ways a Visual Inspection Drone Can Augment Your Processes

1. Visual Inspections During Active Testing

This project involved inspecting the convection center of a furnace to look at the shock tubes and check the asset for leaking.

Visual inspections for corrosion and leaking are normally carried out in person and when the facility is out of use. It is impossible to have someone physically present during a test scenario as the level of risk is unacceptable. 

What was unique about this project was that the team leveraged a Flyability visual inspection drone to inspect the vessels while an active hydro test was underway, which wouldn’t be possible with a human inspection. This allowed them to gather the data they needed remotely and at a considerably lower risk.

2. Uninterrupted Cooling Tower Operations

Cooling towers need to have regular internal inspections for signs of wear, damage, or corrosion. This process requires careful management because cooling towers are very large, tall structures, and inspections are typically associated with significant downtime. 

In this case, however, our drones enabled a four-bay cooling tower to undergo an internal visual inspection with minimal impact on its operations. The facility would turn off the fan in one bay, leaving the other three operational. The inspection team would then fly the aircraft inside of the cooling tower bay, do the inspection, and fly out. The facility would turn that fan back on, switch to the other fan, and we would do the same thing again—fly in, do the visual inspection, and fly out.

The process was incredibly efficient because the facility did not have to shut down the whole system. The tower could still provide the required cooling support because the team would only put out one of the four bays at a time.

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3. Supplementing Human Inspections

Every inspection is a partnership between inspectors, assets, and inspection tools. A visual inspection drone can augment an inspection by providing access to dangerous or inaccessible parts of an asset, while humans work in safer areas and use the information provided by the drone to assess the structure’s integrity.

In this project, the inspection team used one of our drones to capture the top of a tank as well as its rafters and supports. Without the drone, the inspection team would have had to build rolling scaffolding, which is expensive, and spend considerable time in the asset. Using a drone also decreased the risk of human injury from falls or refractory lining failures. The inspection team got to see clearly just what they needed to see in the asset and completed a successful API570 inspection without putting themselves at unnecessary risk.

4. Inspecting Hard-to-Access Parts of a Facility

Flyability’s indoor drone was used to inspect infrastructure at the World Waterpark and Mindbender (WEM) roller coaster in West Edmonton Mall. 

The inspecting team could examine the facility more thoroughly than ever thanks to our drones’ unique ability to fly in confined spaces. They saw things they had never been able to access before, even with scaffolding, as parts of the infrastructure were difficult or downright impossible to inspect manually.

WEM personnel also found that remote visual inspections made the process faster, safer, and more economical. Using a drone cut inspection times from 10–20 to just 1–2 hours and reduced costs by more than 80%.

5. One-Off, Last-Minute Stop Checks

Pampa Energía, Argentina’s largest independent energy company, was interested in switching from manual to remote visual inspections for the regular maintenance checkups of the boilers used at their power plants.

Traditionally, Pampa Energía personnel would climb scaffolding to enter each boiler and visually inspect the burners inside using a flashlight. Building the scaffolding would take two to three days to put up and two to three days to take down. The inspection itself required about a day’s work. Altogether, boiler inspections would usually require seven full days of downtime.

When Elios 1 was tested at Pampa Energía’s power plant in Bahía Blanca, the original plan was to inspect one of the two boilers on site. Within 20 minutes, the visual inspection drone managed to collect enough visual data for a full boiler inspection—much faster than the company’s seven-day manual process. 

On a whim, Pampa Energía asked if it would be possible to inspect the second boiler as well since the first inspection had been so quick and there was plenty of time left in the day. The burners in that boiler were under two years old, so the team did not expect to find any issues.

To everyone’s surprise, the remote visual inspection revealed that the burners were in a very bad state—so bad that Pampa Energía chose not to even restart them, as doing so risked damaging the entire asset and compromising personnel safety. As the issue was discovered before the burners’ expiration date, the warranty was still in force, and Pampa Energía was able to recover the full costs. 

Overall, this single, last-minute boiler inspection saved the company a total of $420,000 in scaffolding, downtime, and insurance expenses.

One boiler inspection by drone saved Pampa Energía $420,000 in scaffolding, downtime, and insurance costs.

Want to Give Remote Visual Inspections a Try?

Contact us today to learn more about Flyability’s remote inspection solutions and how they can revolutionize your business. 

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