What Is an Internal Inspection?

Internal inspection refers to an examination of the interior of an asset. 

These inspections are used to determine the condition of the inside of the asset and to identify any defects that may require further testing or maintenance.

Historically, internal inspections have been conducted in person, by having an inspector enter the confined space inside an asset like a boiler or tank. But over the last several years sophisticated robotics solutions like Flyability’s indoor drones have allowed inspectors to stay safely outside the asset, instead sending the robot into it to collect visual inspection data.

Inspectors use internal inspections visually and by using other non-destructive testing (NDT) methods to help keep assets in good working order. 

[Internal inspections are just one area in which inspectors use non-destructive (NDT) testing methods. Learn more about NDT and the other scenarios in which it is performed in this guide.] 

In this guide, we will cover the following topics

  • Ways To Conduct An Internal Inspection
  • Three Questions Inspectors Must Answer When Conducting Internal Inspections
  • Industries & Assets That Require Internal Inspections

Ways To Conduct An Internal Inspection

Internal inspections are typically conducted by using:

  • Using scaffolding
  • Rope access
  • Remote Visual Inspection (RVI) tools

For all three of these approaches, the goal is for the inspector to get the data they need to determine the condition of the asset. It’s important to note that each of these approaches has its own value and use, and that they may be combined to help inspectors collect all the data they need.

With scaffolding and rope access, inspectors will be collecting that data in person. 

 If they’re conducting a visual inspection, they’ll visually review the interior of the asset they’re inspecting by standing on scaffolding or working on ropes. 

On the other hand, if they’re collecting visual data remotely using a drone or some other robotics solution, the inspector will usually be standing outside the asset.

Scaffolding

Scaffolding is built as a temporary structure for inspectors to climb onto and conduct internal inspections. 

This approach to internal inspections is by far the most costly way to perform an internal inspection. Building scaffolding and taking it back down while an asset is out of commission is incredibly time consuming, and that time translates into prolonged downtimes, which are one of the most expensive aspects of most inspections.

Traditionally, scaffolding has been the go-to method used by inspectors for internal inspections. However, given the high costs associated with scaffolding, companies have been turning to other methods to collect visual data.

Rope Access 

Rope access is a method used for at-height inspections and for inspections in confined, hard-to-reach places.

Certified rope access technicians will use a system of safety hardware and ropes to conduct internal inspections inside large industrial assets like pressure vessels, boilers, and stacks.

Rope access allows inspectors to get an up close look at defects and also enables them to conduct light maintenance work on ropes.

This internal inspection method is less expensive than using scaffolding, but it’s imperative to use experienced rope access technicians who are certified.

Remote Visual Inspection Tools

Using remote visual inspection (RVI) tools, like drones, can save companies money and is fast becoming a preferred method for confined space entry. 

Drones like Flyability’s Elios 2 and other RVI robots can also be sent into confined spaces—which pose serious risks for human-entry—to collect data. 

Because RVI tools eliminate the need to build and take down scaffolding, days or even weeks of  downtime can be saved, resulting in significant savings for companies. Another benefit to using a drone or robot for remote visual data collection is that they can reduce insurance premiums, since companies can avoid sending people into dangerous confined spaces.

Three Questions Inspectors Must Answer When Conducting Internal Inspections

Inspectors use common NDT methods to answer the following three questions when conducting internal inspections:

1. Are there any defect(s) in the asset?

An inspector will first perform an internal inspection of an asset to determine if there are any defects in the asset. Inspectors will document these defects and to keep a detailed historical record of the condition of the asset.

2. Where are the defect(s) located?

Without the right equipment, this question can often be the hardest to answer when using RVI tools for an internal inspection. Because advanced indoor positioning systems, like GPS, don’t function in densely situated indoor spaces, like mines and sewers, it can be hard for inspectors to identify the location of a defect seen in footage collected remotely.

Furthermore, defects found inside assets that have uniform surfaces, like chimneys or tanks, are difficult for inspectors to locate because there are no reference points for inspectors to use to pinpoint the location of a defect. 

In order to locate defects in their visual data, inspectors sometimes use the following data points:

  • Barometric measurements
  • Blueprints
  • Calculating the speed of an RVI
  • Maps
  • Reference points from the video footage

Inspectors are also using new software to help them pinpoint the location of defects. Flyability’s Inspector 3.0 software—software made just for use with Flyability’s drones—provides inspectors with a sparse point cloud that shows them exactly where defects are located. This information can then be shared with other stakeholders in the inspection process, like maintenance managers or site administrators.

3. What are the dimensions of the defect(s)?

Locating defects is important, but knowing the dimensions of a defect will inform maintenance crews on next steps, helping them decide whether the defect should be inspected further, monitored, or fixed.

Industries & Assets That Require Internal Inspections

Internal inspections are crucial for industrial assets, since even small defects can eventually lead to catastrophic events that threaten employees’ safety if they go undetected and unaddressed.

Here are the industries in which inspectors conduct internal inspections:

  • Aerospace
  • Agriculture
  • Chemicals
  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Maritime
  • Mining
  • Oil & Gas
  • Pipeline
  • Power & Utilities
  • Public Safety

And here are the most common types of assets that require internal inspections:

  • Boilers
  • Cokes
  • Grain bins
  • Mines
  • Pressure vessels
  • Pipelines
  • Sewers
  • Stacks
  • Tanks
  • Wind turbines

Learn more about how the Elios 2 helps provide high quality visual data for indoor inspections.

Watch an online demonstation

Table of contents

    SEE ALSO

    Articles Power Generation

    For years, robots have been helping nuclear personnel meet ALARA requirements by reducing exposure to radiation—here's how indoor drones can help.

    Articles Power Generation

    Professionals in the power generation industry are using indoor drones in a variety of ways—read this article to get the details.

    Articles Pharmaceuticals

    Professionals in the pharmaceuticals industry are using indoor drones in a variety of ways—read this article to get the details.

    Articles

    Professionals in the chemicals industry are using indoor drones in a variety of ways—read this article to get the details.

    Articles

    Professionals in the oil and gas industry are using indoor drones in a variety of ways—read this article to get the details.

    Articles

    Drones present several benefits as a tool for remote visual data collection in internal inspections for the chemicals industry—here's our list of the top […]

    Articles

    Drones present several benefits as a tool for remote visual data collection in internal inspections for the pharmaceutical industry—here's our list of the […]

    Articles

    Drones present several benefits as a tool for remote visual data collection in internal inspections for the oil and gas industry—here's our list of the […]

    Articles

    Drones present several benefits as a tool for remote visual data collection in internal inspections for the cement industry—here's our list of the top 6.

    Articles

    There are 3 questions all inspectors must answer when conducting internal inspections—and each product we've made is designed to help answer them.

    Articles

    Inspectors are using Inspector 3.0 to create 3D models of sewer systems, tanks, and more—read this article to see how this new software is helping […]

    Articles

    Wondering how Inspector 3.0 differs from other 3D modeling software? Read this article to find out.

    Articles

    Drones present several benefits as a tool for remote visual data collection in mining operations—here is our list of the top 6.

    Articles

    Wondering how indoor drones are being used in public safety? Here are three use cases from police officers and firefighters working in the field.

    Public Safety Food & Beverage Sewer Power Generation Chemicals Maritime Oil & Gas

    Companies are using indoor drones to significantly reduce injuries and fatalities during internal inspections. Here's how they're doing it.

    Public Safety Food & Beverage Sewer Power Generation Chemicals Maritime Oil & Gas

    Companies are using drones to realize 6 and 7 figure savings in inspections. Here's how they're doing it.

    Articles

    Drones present several benefits as a tool for remote visual data collection in sewer inspection scenarios—here is our list of the top 8.

    Articles

    Although 2020 was a difficult year—as it was for everyone—we managed to stay quite busy here at Flyability. Here is our list of highlights from the year.

    Articles

    Drones present several benefits as a tool for remote visual data collection in NDT (Non-Destructive Testing) indoor inspection scenarios—here is our list […]

    Articles Operational Procedures

    For indoor inspections, drones can help eliminate hazards completely by replacing the need for an inspector to enter them. This places drones in the top […]