As heavy industries strive to balance a traditional focus with emerging technologies and solutions, professionals stand to benefit from embracing robotics and drones. The benefits of deploying drones are relatively straightforward – drones can relieve humans from working in hazardous environments and away from the front lines of various dangerous tasks, reducing injuries and deaths caused by industrial accidents. Additionally, drones allow for achieving greater operational efficiencies while curbing CO2 emissions.
Here are 5 ways industrial facilities can benefit from by adopting automated drones into their daily workflows:
1. Improving Safety of Personnel
Controlling risks becomes manageable through the use of drones. Integrating drones as part of daily processes puts fewer people at risk, and coupled with automation, the risk of human error is reduced. For example, drones can reduce exposure of industry professionals from heights, and other hazardous environments such as inspecting storage tanks. Every climb that is avoided results in reduced risk by not putting personnel in harm’s way. Personnel can rely on real-time video relayed from the drone for a routine assessment of a facility’s assets. Additionally, drones allow for safe inspections of pipelines and other hazardous operations. For example, sending a drone to inspect machinery atop an offshore oil rig can minimize risks to worker safety.
2. Frequent and Efficient Inspections
To ensure continuity of operations, industrial assets need to be examined regularly. However, when inspecting hard-to-reach areas, traditional methods usually involve shutting down operations, building scaffolding or setting rope lines, and sending an inspector into a hazardous area with a camera. The logistics involved in these processes and the danger of putting personnel in harm’s way, as well as the costly shutdown time required, significantly impacts the bottom line.
By using a drone to collect visual data on the condition of a facility’s asset, site operators can perform inspections to ensure proper maintenance of a facility’s assets, as well as minimize down time during inspections. Visual drone inspections can assure the most accurate close-proximity visuals. Frequent aerial inspections save time and money through the quicker identification of issues like hot spots, rust, corrosion, cracks and leaks before they can become problems that require shutdowns and major fixes. The ability to capture high-resolution imagery such as a flare while it is live, as well as tip to ground inspections, means that production can continue while providing significant cost savings.
3. Dynamic Security
Drones are a major boon to the security efforts of almost every facility. Not only do they offer dynamic perimeter surveillance and oversight of remote assets, by reducing or eliminating the need for sending security personnel on risky assignments, but they also have the ability to help detect and track intruders. Industrial operations face safety and security threats, which require real-time response solutions that provide rapid, precise and reliable situational awareness. Additionally, automated industrial drones provide a 360-degree view, providing remote workers with data and visibility into site operations.
4. Access to High-Frequency Aerial Data
Large-scale operations involve thousands of critical processes, all of which require near-constant oversight to successfully analyze and control process performance. In the past, the manual effort was required to produce this oversight has been immense. Having personnel on site to inspect before, during, and after works, requires resources to be allocated, and is an inefficient process that takes personnel away from other core competencies.
Drones allow for 3D mapping of an entire facility or set of assets. Using a 3D site model provides a realistic alternative to expensive and time consuming in-person visits. However, generating an up-to-date model by using 3D data captured by drone allows anyone to produce a model that’s visually recognizable to be used for easy communication by anyone on- or off-site.
5. Enabling a Rapid Response Assessment Tool in for Emergencies
The minutes immediately following an incident are often the most critical. Drones can provide critical details on emerging incidents that previously could not have been gained without risking the lives of personnel tasked with investigating, and they provide live situational awareness that informs first response. A simple crack in a flare stack can lead to a devastating fire, a small leak can become an environmental disaster, and emissions can contaminate the environment. Even in situations where personnel aren’t negatively impacted, large-scale evacuations or shelter-in-place orders are common, operations can be impacted for months, if not longer, and regulatory fines can be crippling.
With near real-time footage, drones can assist in crisis response situations to assess dangerous and remote areas. Drones provide a valuable eye in the sky perspective that allows decision-makers to assess the impact or damage and formulate the best possible plan.
Airobotics provides an end-to-end, fully automatic solution for collecting aerial data and gaining invaluable insights – purpose-built to simplify drone operations and transform aerial insights into routine.
Airobotics’ system has the unique capability to swap the drone’s batteries and payloads using a robotic arm, allowing for a diversity of payloads and mission types. The platform is able to automatically self-launch and land accurately, time after time.
With added automation capabilities, the operational advantages brought on by drones are further augmented with consistent and reliable data capture, download, processing, and collaboration. With Airobotics, everything on-site can now be monitored non-intrusively and safely, without disrupting site operations. Operations do not have to be halted, as personnel are not physically required to inspect and take measurements of critical assets. The frequency of measurements and inspections can be significantly increased while human risks are minimized to the absolute lowest possible rate.