Benefits in a nutshell
60% cost reduction for the ballast tank inspection by using the Elios 2.
80% downtime reduction by using the Elios 2, cutting the total time for the inspection from five days to just one.
No confined space entry or work on ropes required for the inspection by using the Elios 2.
In the Oil and Gas industry, workers use huge offshore drilling rigs to drill for oil in the seabed.
In shallow water, these rigs are supported by columns that run all the way down to the ocean floor. But in deep water they’re made to float.
Floating rigs typically consist of a square platform with a column running into the water at each corner, connecting to giant underwater pontoons that run perpendicular to the columns.
The drilling rig DR1 Group inspected
Each column contains a ballast tank, which holds water that is used to control and stabilize the rig’s buoyancy. The pontoons also contain ballast tanks, which can hold either air or water to help balance the rig.
Given their importance to keeping the rig afloat, companies must periodically inspect the columns and the ballast tanks in them to ensure they’re in good working order.
In Brazil, administrators at a shipyard in the city of Angra dos Reis were looking for a new way to inspect their drilling rigs.
They had previously done inspections by sending inspectors into their columns and ballast tanks using rope access. But this approach was dangerous and costly, since it extended the downtime in which the rig couldn’t be used to drill.
To improve safety and reduce downtimes, shipyard administrators approached DR1 Group and asked them to perform a test tank inspection by drone.
After an initial planning meeting, DR1 Group worked closely with the shipyard to prepare two test missions that would demonstrate how drones could meet the shipyard’s needs for its rig inspections.
The two tests were:
- External rig inspection—towers and other exterior areas that required inspection.
- Internal rig inspection—columns and ballast tanks.
DR1’s job in these tests was to collect enough visual data by drone to show the shipyard administrators that the approach was feasible.
To plan the tests, drone pilots from DR1 met with shipyard personnel several times over a period of two months, going over the legal requirements and the standards to make sure the tests would be safe and compliant with relevant standards.
One team conducted the external inspection test, which was performed with DJI’s Matrice 210, and another team conducted the internal inspection test, which was performed with Flyability’s Elios 2.
The internal test was a success. In just 30 minutes of flight time, the DR1 team was able to inspect 40% of one of the rig’s ballast tanks.
These flights were made over a period of about two hours, with time taken by the pilot and inspectors to swap out batteries and check their footage to ensure they were getting the coverage they needed.
By calculating the amount of time that would be saved using the Elios 2 instead of sending inspectors into the tanks and columns, the shipyard administrators estimated that DR1 could reduce the total time needed for internal inspections on the rig from 60 days to just 20.
This video contains footage from one of the ballast tank flights:
After this test mission, DR1 presented the visual data it had collected to the shipyard’s administrators and they were incredibly pleased by the improvement in safety, the efficiency, and the low cost that was achieved with the Elios 2.
Here are some of the photos captured within the ballast tank:
These tests on the drilling rig took place in early 2020, and soon afterward all work was halted by the shipyard due to COVID-19.
However, the shipyard has since resumed operations, and plans to bring DR1 Group back to collect visual data for a future inspection on the same rig.
The shipyard has several other drilling rigs, and is in discussions about hiring DR1 Group to use the Elios 2 to perform internal inspections on all of them. Further, DR1 Group has continued flying the Elios 2 for confined space inspections in a variety of vessels used in Oil and Gas, including ballast tanks on drilling rigs and cargo tanks on FPSOs.