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Streamlining pipeline inspections with UAV technology 17-Nov-2017

Conducting pipeline inspections can sometimes be a challenging task due to the proximity to hazards, limited access spaces or large inspection areas ranging many kilometres. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), or drones, offer a unique range of benefits as an asset management tool for pipeline inspection and detection of integrity issues. Here, we look at these benefits and how a unique drone on the Australian market can further expand inspection capabilities to confined spaces.

Water and sewer pipelines require regular inspection and maintenance monitoring in order to remain compliant and ensure the efficiency and longevity of the assets. In utilising UAV technology to carry out routine inspections, you can cover large areas of land and enter tight spaces in a short amount of time while also improving employee safety, lowering expenditure and reducing downtime.

Collecting data

Drones come equipped with image capture technology, which can range from high resolution digital cameras to thermal and infrared cameras, that allows the operator to navigate the drone and record abnormalities. The data collected can then be extrapolated and analysed in real time through live video feedback, allowing asset operators to streamline and enhance the inspection process.

Austeck Managing Director, Tristan Day, said drone technology provides a systematic data collection solution when inspecting areas that span across a large distance, or to get into confined or restricted mobility spaces.

“You have someone operating the drone at all times who knows exactly what they’re looking for and can conduct a full inspection. UAV’s, like Flyability’s Elios drone, can mark specific points of interest so that when the data is examined you can extract only the relevant data from that particular mission. And what’s even better is you don’t need any specific software to do it,” Mr Day said.

Navigating tight spaces

Traditionally, drones have only been able to be used in open spaces because of the potential crash risks and limited mobility, but the Elios drone – a new drone exclusive to Austeck – is now allowing inspections to be conducted in tight spaces, such as down manholes and through water mains, with minimal risk to the drone and ease of mobility.

The Elios drone has its own protective frame that makes it collision-tolerant. It’s circular frame protects the drone from obstacles, making it easy to navigate even the tightest spaces without the risk of damage.

“The protective frame on the Elios can be used to bounce off and roll over surfaces which increases its movability even more. You can fly close to or even in direct contact with humans without any risks of injuries,” Mr Day said.

“Elios is equipped with an LED lighting system that is remotely adjustable, along with a full HD camera and thermal camera so you can go into any job knowing you have the right tools.”

The Elios drone is also dust and splash-resistant, and can operate in environments between 0° and 50°C making it ideal for water and sewer inspections.

Launching your operation

“We understand that this type of technology can be overwhelming for someone who isn’t familiar with its operation. That’s why at Austeck we provide training for all our clients on the use of our maintenance equipment,” Mr Day said.

“It is also company policy to offer telephone support, 24-hours a day, on all matters of maintenance of our equipment.”

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