One of the growing areas of interest in numerous industries is the use of aerial platforms like drones for the monitoring of vast and complex infrastructures like buildings, bridges, oil, and gas, which refineries require regular and detailed inspections.
The inspection reports are used to schedule and carry out necessary maintenance, preserving the structural integrity of the buildings and ensuring worker safety. Without drones, doing inspections can be complex due to the scale of the facility, the difficulty of access, the health hazards to the inspectors, or several other factors, which have persuaded businesses to invest more in drones as an alternative solution to these difficulties.
Drones’ autonomy can help businesses cut back on inspection expenses and time. Additionally, using drones can reduce the number of people needed for inspection. It might improve worker safety. Finally, drones can be safe and trustworthy for checking dangerous or hard-to-reach regions.
Drones vs. conventional methods
The manual survey of the area by skilled inspectors is a standard component of traditional methods for the thermal inspection of industrial facilities. The inspectors first use thermal imaging devices to collect thermal images from different fields of view. Next, they analyze the data to find and describe potential anomalies and discontinuities. Despite the benefits of employing such methods, some drawbacks and difficulties have prompted businesses to invest in alternative alternatives like drones to deal with problems like power supply and inspection procedures that are inherently limited.
1. Production Rate and Size of Inspection Area
They regularly boost their production capabilities and construct new infrastructure to gain market share due to the considerable rise in demand and expansion in output across numerous industries. As a result, maintaining and inspecting these facilities might raise the cost and duration of inspections. For instance, the global production capacity for solar energy in 2014 was 178 GWp, and about 45% of all installations were large-scale PV facilities.
Thus, it takes a lot of resources to inspect extensive PV facilities using traditional methods. The examination of transportation infrastructures is another illustration. In 2011, the highway network in Canada was 38,021 km. However, a typical analysis of these roads takes a lot of time and inspectors with a lot of experience, which has increased interest in an alternate approach. An efficient method for surveying a broad area might be considered an aerial platform.
2. Inspection of Remote and Inaccessible Locations
The site is prepared for an examination by deploying skilled workers and the necessary tools, but occasionally infrastructures can be found in remote or difficult-to-reach locations. To ensure safe and successful inspections, businesses must take preventative measures, including insurance and additional safety precautions. The steps necessary to relocate equipment and human resources, which might be exorbitant in terms of cost and time, are one of the difficulties in examining difficult-to-reach locations.
For instance, most steel transmission towers in Korea are found in mountainous areas. Access to these facilities is therefore challenging; this difficulty has been overcome by employing drones to inspect to ensure the structural integrity of the components. Drones and other aerial platforms can offer mobility in far-off places, making the inspection possible.
3. Inspection of Hazardous or Dangerous Sites
Inspections can occasionally be risky and challenging. For instance, workers may face dangers if they work in a setting with dangerous chemical components. Access to the targeted components can be difficult and hazardous in some infrastructures, like bridges, refinery petrochemical complexes, or wind turbines. Staff members may be in danger under these circumstances. They might harm the machinery, making it more difficult to conduct routine inspections.
Another risky area for checking and monitoring potential radiation is inspecting nuclear installations. In one study, scientists looked into the possibility of monitoring radiation in nuclear power plants using radiation imaging equipment mounted on an aerial platform.
Property damage or potential injuries may result from human error or an unforeseeable incident. To overcome these difficulties, a drone-based system with suitable sensors on the platform can significantly reduce mishaps and offer a more unhindered view of the location. Additionally, drones can reduce the number of human resources needed for the inspection because they are pilotless. Drones’ ability to navigate also allows for better access to the targeted areas, improving the accuracy and consistency of data collected.
4. Inspection of Large Specimens
It is customary to deploy many inspectors to various parts of the site when inspecting an extensive infrastructure to shorten the inspection period. However, this method can make it more difficult to ensure data consistency because of the various inspectors working in multiple locations. Additionally, the inspectors must record the information obtained, which may result in inconsistent paperwork.
Conducting numerous data-gathering sessions is another method for examining massive infrastructures. This approach requires inspectors to set up their tools in various locations and collect data to perform additional analysis. For monitoring massive infrastructures, drone-based systems can be an alternative that produces more comprehensive, consistent, and dependable data. Additionally, the fixed configuration on a drone might shorten the duration of the inspection.
Due to the benefits of airborne platforms over more traditional techniques, the usage of drones to examine industrial sites has increased dramatically over the past ten years. Aside from the maneuverability that drones offer, they offer a unique chance to move the equipment and assess the facility reasonably quickly and inexpensively. Drones that can be controlled remotely can significantly minimize the amount of staff needed and avoid harm to people. As a result, businesses invest in using drones for various purposes, including building, industrial sites, and aerospace components.