Malcolm Connolly, managing director and co-founder, Cyberhawk Innovations, describes how ROAVs can be used to make inspection easier, safer and cheaper

There is often a requirement at industrial processing sites to visually and thermally inspect tall or inaccessible structures. This can be expensive, time consuming, and also potentially dangerous, as it involves personnel working at height (one of the main sources of industrial accidents) or working near hot surfaces.

With this in mind, Cyberhawk has introduced a method of inspection that is easier, safer and less expensive than traditional methods. Using Remotely Operated Aerial Vehicles (ROAVs), Cyberhawk are able to access tall and hard-to-reach structures. The ROAVs use HD?video and HD still cameras to visually inspect assets – the images can be used for maintenance and repair. The vehicles can also be equipped with thermal imaging cameras. Placing visual and thermal images side by side increases the ability to ‘fault find’ and identify suspect equipment.

Because the assets can be inspected ‘live’, the plant does not need to be shutdown, which means faulty components can be pre-ordered, or the shutdown can be deferred to a more convenient time.

As an example, Cyberhawk recently completed a thermal inspection of steel chimney ducting at a large UK refinery. Suspecting refractory damage within the ducting, the end customer wanted to confirm the extent of the problem in order that component parts could be ordered in advance of a planned shutdown. Over a few hours Cyberhawk captured thermal and visual images of the ducting from all angles, identifying problem areas. This meant delivery uncertainty could be removed from the turnaround project timeline and the extra cost of urgently shipping critical replacement parts was avoided.

Another benefit of the technology is that more regular inspection allows faster identification of minor defects before they become major hazards.

The Cyberhawk ROAV is small and lightweight and can be positioned with great accuracy. GPS positioning technology means that the exact image can be accurately repeated if necessary, which offers advantages for long term condition monitoring. The ROAV is battery powered so is quiet in operation. It is a legal requirement that ROAVs are operated by experienced personnel.