Grain Silo Inspection: Overcoming Challenges with Zenith
Grain silos are large assets that represent particular challenges. Not only are there limited times of the year when they aren’t in use, but companies typically have multiple assets that need inspecting at the same time.
The challenges of grain silo inspection can be summed up as follows:
- The assets are large, typically ranging from 5-12 or more metres in width and often over 50 metres tall.
- They don’t have internal lighting and natural light is little to non-existent.
- The time slots in which to carry out inspections are short. Grain must be stored straight after harvest and there is only a finite amount of time that the assets are empty each year when inspections can be carried out.
- Companies usually have multiple grain silos, representing a large-scale inspection task.
Traditional inspects require the erection of scaffolding or rope entry for an inspector to enter the silo. Both present health and safety issues and take time to prepare and implement. ADM, one of the largest food processing and storage companies in the world was keen to find an effective alternative, so approached specialist innovation company, Interactive Aerial (IA), to see how they could help.
The Zenith Effect
IA was delighted to showcase Zenith, as this was precisely the type of inspection requirement that the technology had been developed for. One reason ADM was interested in Zenith was thanks to the generous payload capability of this drop inspection camera. The near-to-total darkness within the assets required effective lighting to provide the clarity of visual data that had failed to be met needs during prior inspections.
IA’s inspection team deployed Zenith to carry out a trial run of a couple of ADM’s grain silos. They took advantage of the camera’s additional lighting payload, meaning that the 4K video and HD images gathered were wholly clear and far superior to any that had been captured during previous, traditional inspections.
This was not the only advantage. ADM was also delighted to benefit from the following:
- Eliminating the need for high-risk human entry into the silos.
- Removing the human error factor when gathering data.
- A far quicker inspection time – the trial was carried out in less than a day. This was further expedited, thanks to the automated abilities of Zenith. Once set up, the camera carried out the complete inspection without the need for further human intervention.
- All the images and video data are geo-tagged. This makes returning to the same position for future inspections simple, as well as providing the exact location for maintenance engineers should repairs need to be carried out.
- The 30x optical zoom camera allowed inspectors to see 0.79mm from 9 metres away.
ADM was more than satisfied with the result, determining that Zenith and other inspection robots were wholly viable alternatives to the challenges of traditional confined space inspections.
The key benefits to the company and its shareholders can be defined as:
- Saving time
- Saving money
- Increasing the safety of their employees
- Improving the inspection and review process to pinpoint potential defects or early warning signs of wear within the silos
- Allowing easier maintenance planning