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How the Maritime Industry is Embracing Elios 2 Drone Technology

Elios 2 in Action, close up on a weld

The era of the drone within the maritime industry is well and truly upon us. Advanced tech, such as Flyability’s indoor aerial inspection vehicle (AVI), Elios 2 in combination with Inspector 3.0, is an asset that’s proving extremely popular within this progressive market. 

While growth has yet to reach the dizzy heights of the power generation or oil & gas industries, it represents a significant element of sales and profits for the company. While it seems unfortunate to jump on the Covid 19 blame bandwagon, it’s a truism that there was a decreasing sales trend during 2020-2021 that was a result of the pandemic. 

However, leads throughout this time remained strong and, in the latter period, once again began to increase. Because of the value that drone technology brings to the industry, this is only set to show healthy growth as we move back to pre-Covid manufacturing and shipping levels. Indeed, other factors, such as the war in Ukraine and related worldwide shortages, only strengthen the case for utilising cutting-edge tech – and AVI in particular. 

In regard to the maritime industry, Elios 2 and Inspector 3.0 is the ideal combination for a wide variety of inspections, such as: 

  • Ballast tanks in vessels and container ships 
  • Cargo tanks of floating production storage 
  • Remote structural components in cargo and ships tanks 

The Many Benefits of Elios 2 

To fully understand why AVIs are so beneficial to the maritime industry, we first need to identify the challenges. We can do this by highlighting the multiple high-risk elements of traditional inspection methods. 

Assets must undergo detailed inspection at regulated periods – typically on a bi-annual basis. This usually requires a team numbering at least 4 and requires the following: 

  • Confined space entry: Either by rope or, where this is not possible, by climbing down pre-erected scaffolding. The latter requires extensive time to put in place, and both present a considerable risk of falling or injury. In addition, inspectors must be equipped with gas and oxygen monitoring detectors. Even with an extended shutdown, it’s impossible to guarantee the removal of all pockets of gas and/or toxic substances, meaning the inspectors are subjected to a volatile and high-risk environment. 
  • Extended asset shutdown: This is necessary well in advance of the inspection, both to make the environment as safe as possible and put in place the equipment needed for human entry. Once the inspection has been completed, further time is needed to remove scaffolding etc. The result is a period of many days or even weeks where the asset is completely out of action. 
  • Navigation multiple inspection hazards: Once inside, inspectors must navigate narrow, irregular areas. Obstacles, such as forepeaks, cofferdams and ballast tanks not only present increased hazards but are difficult for inspectors to adequately gather the necessary inspection data. 
  • Increased insurance costs: There’s no denying the fact that human inspection of such assets is highly hazardous. Accidents are all too common, meaning that insurance costs are high, as is the need for adequate medical cover for those just-in-case scenarios. 

The advanced technology of Elios 2 and Inspector 3.0 overcomes virtually every aspect of the above risks. In addition, its use enables a dual-purpose inspection to be carried out at the same time – comprising both a visual inspection and NDT ultrasound testing where necessary. 

Advantages of Elios 2 and Inspector 3.0

These advantages can be summed up as follows: 

  • Removes the need for human entry into confined spaces: The Elios drone has been specifically designed to navigate complex interior structures, providing visual data and carrying out NDT ultrasound testing. The craft is flown by a pilot located at a safe distance from the asset. 
  • Provides enhanced visual data: This is afforded by HD cameras, high lumen lighting and the agile navigation abilities of Elios 2. Thanks to this, visuals can be captured in every location – including those that are impossible for a human inspector to reach because of obstacles within the asset. 
  • Precise data localisation: If repairs are deemed necessary, the software provides the exact location. This allows a manual team to enter the asset at the closest available point, so reducing inaccurate entries and the cost/hazards this brings. 
  • Speed of inspection: Deploying the Elios 2 and the time taken to carry out the tests can be done in minutes. There’s no need to make the environment safe for human entry, nor to erect and disassemble scaffolding. Using the Elios 2 can realistically reduce an asset inspection to a period of days or hours to complete. 
  • Less manpower: The number of people needed for inspection is dramatically reduced. 
  • Lower insurance costs: Without human entry, insurance premiums are significantly lower. 
  • Employee, customer and investor confidence: Improving the inspection task of maritime assets to such an extent is beneficial to everyone involved. Employees are satisfied that their health and safety are a priority, customers can be confident that they’re dealing with an ethical outfit and investors will be attracted, thanks to lowered running costs and all the other aforementioned benefits. 
  • Proactive maintenance becomes a viable option: A cheaper, more effective, highly accurate and fast inspection ability makes it easier to have a proactive approach to maintenance, as opposed to waiting until regulations force an inspection. In turn, this leads to easier maintenance planning, a lowered risk of unplanned shutdowns, incidents and the heavy costs these involve. 

A successful example of using Elios 2 and Inspector 3.0 within maritime is the ROBINS Project, where the platform has been used multiple times to inspect irregular, narrow and geographically-challenged interior spaces such as cofferdams and ballast tanks.  

Enrico Carrara, Senior Technical Officer at RINA Services, S.p.A. says of the Elios 2, “We have tested the Elios 2 many times . . . in the framework of the ROBINS project, and we had really amazing results.” 

With business running costs rising across the spectrum – including that of the maritime industry – finding innovative and cost-effective ways to reduce outgoings is essential for companies to survive. In an ever-increasing competitive landscape, advantages, such as using advanced tech like the Elios 2, is something every organisation must embrace in order to remain viable. 

Contact us to find out more about our range of robots or any of our other inspection products, or request a quote online.

Carry on reading How Robots Are Shaking up NDT Inspections to find out more.

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