Capable of operating at height, within confined spaces and underwater, inspection drones and unmanned systems are used routinely to carry out inspections for a broad spectrum of industries including:
Using autonomous and unmanned technology for inspection purposes greatly reduces risk to workers and is dramatically faster, which reduces both shutdown times and costs. Capable of producing high resolution, real-time data capture, with minimal environmental impact, industrial drones for inspection are cost effective, non-disruptive and capable of getting very close to high risk, difficult to reach areas and structures with minimal risk to human life.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) also referred to as Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), are capable of close range, low level flight and can carry a range of inspection payloads such as :
Aerial inspection reports can include data gathered using thermal and infrared imagery, real-time HD video, high resolution images and point cloud data.
The long flight times of Fixed Wing UAVs means that they are capable of flying over vast areas and so are suited to long range inspection tasks such as checking remote pipelines or monitoring large agricultural areas.
Hybrid VTOL Fixed Wing Drones combine the long distance capabilities of fixed wing drones with the ability to take-off and land vertically. Requiring less space for launch and landing than standard fixed wing drones, makes them ideal for maritime aerial inspection as they can be easily launched from the deck of a ship.
Equipped with obstacle avoidance capabilities and cages to protect the propeller blades, Indoor Inspection Drones can safely navigate inside confined spaces including sewers and storage facilities, as well as investigating areas that could contain noxious and flammable gases, such as cargo holds and ballast tanks.
Autonomous surface inspection can be carried out by Autonomous Surface Vehicles (USV) and Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV). These are often used during natural emergencies such as floods, to assess damage to infrastructure above and below the water. For example USVs can be deployed to study seabed erosion around the base of bridges or other critical structures such as oil rigs or wind turbines. ASVs and remote controlled boats can also be used to detect illegal offshore activities such as illegal fishing, smuggling or piracy.
Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) and Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV) are revolutionizing previously dangerous, time consuming and expensive maritime inspections which need to be conducted below the waterline. ROVs are capable of carrying out crucial hull inspections, accessing for damage, defects and potentially corrosive marine life. They can also be used to investigate submerged and inaccessible storage tanks, underwater pipelines and offshore platforms.
Terrestrial unmanned inspections are undertaken by the the military and within industry using robotic inspection drones and Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV). Designed to operate in harsh conditions and difficult terrains, rugged UGVs and inspection robots are primarily used by the military to explore potentially dangerous areas as well as conduct explosive ordnance disposal (EOD). They can also be deployed to monitor radioactive activity in contaminated areas such as nuclear sites and facilities.
Industrial inspection robots are used within critical structures as part of maintenance procedures and can be fitted with sensors and cameras to detect anomalies. Whilst some operate using tracks, others have been developed to climb or crawl depending on the tasks they are carrying out.
Artificial Intelligence Technology is playing an increasingly important role in unmanned and autonomous inspection. Whilst drones are capable of accessing hard to reach, remote and dangerous locations and collating the necessary data to give an informed picture of the area, AI algorithms are being developed that will enable fast and effect image recognition – enabling the unmanned system to be able to detect and categorize various types of damage, rust, corrosion or infestation and to quickly and effectively prioritise a response and repairs.