Elia Uses Drones and Data Analytics to Automate Inspection Process

Elia Uses Drones and Data Analytics to Automate Inspection Process

Sky-Futures has recently worked with Elia, a major European Transmission System Operator (TSO) in an innovation project combining drone inspections and data analytics software to automate the inspection process.

Customer Needs

The inspections of Elia’s infrastructure including towers and overhead lines generate a large volume of data. Elia has recognised the need for a data management and reporting system to facilitate all the captured data, as well as optimising its potential use.

The Proof of Concept

The data is being hosted in Expanse, Sky-Futures’ cloud-based asset management, data analytics and reporting software. Powered by Computer Vision and Artificial Intelligence, Expanse provided Elia several benefits in terms of how asset inspection data is stored, analysed, reported and shared.

The collected data was labelled and processed in Expanse. Present defects or anomalies were highlighted and put into a category e.g. corrosion. This allows Sky-Futures to tune the Artificial Intelligence algorithm to perform the automatic identification of anomalies. This means that on the next flight, the pilot could upload the collected images into Expanse, and these anomalies will be automatically identified and associated with the corresponding asset. With the automation of certain tasks, like object identification, inspections and maintenance can be done faster and more efficiently.

We are pleased to work with Elia to introduce a higher quality and more efficient inspection regime using Sky-Futures’ Expanse software platform. The project will help Elia capitalise on the efficiencies provided by drone-based inspections by automating the inspection process, so the Engineering teams can use the data at scale.

Chris Blackford

COO, Sky-Futures

Expanse allows Elia to achieve OPEX savings and enables them to prioritise maintenance work, informed by a deep understanding of asset condition.

About Elia

Elia is Belgium’s high-voltage transmission system operator (30 kV to 380 kV), operating over 8,600 km of lines and underground cables throughout Belgium and Germany. The company transmits electricity from generators to distribution system operators, which then supply SMEs and homes. Elia also has contracts with major industrial users that directly connect to its high-voltage grid.

Read more about the project here

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Manufacturing Plant Blended Inspections – A Bureau Veritas Case Study

Manufacturing Plant Blended Inspections – A Bureau Veritas Case Study

Everyday practice has shown that maintaining industrial plant facilities is by no mean an easy task. A complete inspection of a manufacturing site, usually consisting of buildings and machinery is often complex and challenging.

Sky-Futures has joined forces with Bureau Veritas, the world leader in Testing, Inspection and Certification (TIC) services to deliver drone inspection services in various disciplines for Bureau Veritas’ clients, ensuring they remain compliant with current safety regulations and standards.

Bureau Veritas’ technical knowledge paired with Sky-Futures’ blended inspection capability combining drones, experienced inspectors and Expanse data analytics tools offer industrial companies a robust, efficient and cost-effective solution to maintain complex plants and meet statutory requirements.

Customer Needs

Sky-Futures worked with Bureau Veritas surveyor team to survey a client’s large production plant providing an in-depth view of the condition of their crane gantry track.
To perform the inspection, the client needed to shut down production and use time-consuming and costly methods such as MEWP’s (Mobile Elevating Work Platforms) and scaffolding. The project was particularly challenging this time as there is no physical way to get access to 40% of the gantry that needed to be inspected without dismantling the plant, which could be extremely costly for the client.

Track inspected

%

Inaccessible area

Partner at a glance

Created in 1828, Bureau Veritas is a global leader in Testing, Inspection and Certification (TIC), delivering high-quality services to help clients meet the growing challenges of quality, safety, environmental protection and social responsibility.

Since 2017, Bureau Veritas and Sky-Futures have joined forces in a pioneering new partnership, offering customers with a blended inspection capability combining drones, experienced inspectors and Sky-Futures’ Expanse data platform and data analytics tools.

Solutions

By deploying the Elios collision-tolerance drone with a high-resolution camera, the inaccessible areas were accessed and the 400m of track and gantry were inspected. Only small sections of the production plant were shut down during the 2-day inspection.

The inspection was conducted by a team of two people: Sky-Futures drone pilot and Bureau Veritas engineer. The 400m inspected area was split into 10-meter sections. Each section was surveyed from both sides using the Elios, taking approximately 15 minutes to complete including establishing a safety parameter and all necessary flight check.

The established workflow meant that while the pilot conducted the sectional aerial survey, the Bureau Veritas engineer surveyor reviewed the high-resolution inspection footage from the previous flight.

The drones were without a doubt a great asset during this inspection, providing certain lighting and angles that we would not have been able to get otherwise. As the whole inspection was also being recorded the image quality was phenomenal, allowing me to see in more detail than if I was inspecting with my own eyes, and clarifying things that maybe would have challenged me before. This technology has also been very well received by our clients.

David Page

Engineer Surveyor, Bureau Veritas

Results

Deploying the Elios drone has proved to be the safest, fastest and best approach to address the access challenges faced at this industrial facility.

The inspection of track components by drone is significantly cost-saving as it is much faster and safer than set up scaffolding or having an engineer for physical inspection. Drones reduce the requirement for working at height and in confined spaces, allowing Bureau Veritas engineers to undertake a safe first audit so that further inspection and maintenance can be prioritised.

Days Inspection

Mission pictures taken by Elios drone in confined space

Inspection Applications

Sky-Futures works with Bureau Veritas in various internal and external deployments including building condition assessment, thermal and photogrammetry survey, driving down the cost of inspection solution and mitigating risk.

  • Roof survey (visual and thermal)
  • Large structures e.g. elevated conveyors
  • Large tank inspection, internal and external
  • Inspections requiring scaffold or SkyLift / MEWP
  • Dangerous access, e.g. above water, stockpile
  • Chimneys, boiler rooms, vent stacks and furnaces
  • Additional services such as site survey and perimeter fence inspection

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Azisa powers up industrial asset management capabilities with Expanse – Case Study

Azisa powers up industrial asset management capabilities with Expanse – Case Study

AZISA Drone Company is committed to delivering the highest quality technology and productivity tools for their clients, and as such, they decided to enhance their asset management and reporting capabilities by using Sky-Futures’ Expanse inspection software.

Business Challenges

One of today’s biggest challenges for infrastructure owners is to have an accurate understanding of the condition of their assets. Without accurate data, it is very difficult to maximise the value of the assets and optimise resources. Companies are now recognising that a predictive maintenance approach is essential to improve uptime of assets by predicting failure before it actually happens.

Customer at a glance

AZISA Drone Company, created in 2016 is the Spanish leader in “unmanned technologies as a service” (UAV’s, UGV’s, USV’s and ROV’s). They have been providing drone inspection services for major companies in the Oil & Gas and Nuclear sectors in Spain.

Choosing the right tool to provide rapidly and efficiently the information to our customers was critical, so when we began to work with Expanse we realised that we were in the right way.

Raúl Álvarez

CEO & Founder, Azisa Drone Company

Solutions

Expanse provided AZISA Drone Company with several benefits in terms of how asset inspection data is stored, analysed, reported and shared.

AZISA Drone Company performs inspections using different kinds of drones. After each inspection, a technical report is generated and then delivered to the clients, all through the Expanse web portal.

With Expanse, AZISA can accurately measure and quantify anomalies and other observations. In a highly visual way, AZISA can highlight possible defects or damages on their client’s assets as well as predict the progression of identified anomalies. The tool allows asset owners to achieve significant OPEX savings by gaining efficiency and making smarter decisions informed by a deep understanding of asset condition.

Thanks to Expanse we provide our clients with the critical information through a very smart and intuitive platform, adaptable to all environments and technologies that we deal with in our day-to-day work. We are very proud to say that Sky-Futures and their inspection platform Expanse are the perfect technology partner for us.

Raúl Álvarez

CEO & Founder, Azisa Drone Company

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Oil and Gas drone inspection prevents an unscheduled shutdown in Malaysia

Oil and Gas drone inspection prevents an unscheduled shutdown in Malaysia

Business Challenge

A major oil and gas client in Malaysia had a requirement for a pre-shutdown drone inspection to establish the integrity and condition of two of their flare tips. The planned shutdown on the offshore platform was scheduled 8 weeks later.

Solutions

Despite some bad weather (high gusting winds of up to 45 km/h and heavy localised wind swell), all the inspection work was completed ahead of the proposed schedule. The Sky-Futures project team and engineering manager worked directly with the client to ensure the pre-shutdown scope included other structural inspections that could not be completed whilst the platform was online. This included items such as the flare boom and heat shields.

On completion of the UAV inspection, all still and video imagery taken was reviewed and assessed by Sky-Futures flare technical expert and a detailed report was submitted to the client in Malaysia within a week of the inspection. The report identified that one of the flare tips was significantly damaged and needed replacing. Having reviewed the detailed report, the client sought further advice from Sky- Futures’ expert to discuss the findings. A conference call was set up between Sky-Futures flare expert David English and the client within a week of the inspection finishing.

Results

Following the inspection and conference call with Sky-Futures’ flare expert, the client was able to effectively plan for the replacement of parts and a general repair of the flare tip.

If the damage had been discovered during the planned shutdown it would not have been possible to repair and get back online during the shutdown period. As a direct result, a secondary unscheduled shutdown would have been required later in the year.

The inspections of the other structural scopes such as the flare boom and heat shields freed up considerable time during the shutdown so that the client could focus, not only on the repair of the flare tip but also on utilising the additional personnel for other on-going maintenance work, increasing the efficiency of the platform.

Saving Cost ($)

week’s lost production saved

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Lloyd’s Register Guidance Notes For Safe UAV Inspections Case Studies

Lloyd’s Register Guidance Notes For Safe UAV Inspections Case Studies

The following two case studies helped to support the development of Lloyd’s Register guidance notes for safe UAS inspections.

CASE STUDY: Flare tip inspection, resulting in speedy delivery of high-quality data and specialist analysis. Inspection completed for lower total cost than traditional manual inspection, despite a greater upfront investment.

Overview

Client: ENI

Operation: Offshore installation, Liverpool Bay

Purpose: To set up a monitoring regime for the fixed structure asset Flare tip and boom inspection

Outcome

Lloyd’s Register Project Manager Helen West said, “The UAS inspection delivered some key benefits to the client that a traditional inspection would not have done. A particular benefit is to minimise and even avoid the need for a shutdown planned or unplanned. With the application of UAS inspection, the technical inspection data received would be reviewed and reported by competent personnel report and an integrity assessment would outline areas of concern. So the UAS inspection included the specialist and data interpretation as well as the data collection. This is an addition to the service as the use of drones has evolved.”

Helen identified a number of additional benefits to the client. She said, “Although the correct paperwork needs to be used e.g. ISSOW, method statements, Risk Assessment Safety Procedures, the process was quick and easy to set up. This negated the need of putting men at risk to scale the flare-tip to confirm the condition of the flare tip and boom chords. The end product delivered was clear images, both video and stills and a permanent record. The UAS was able to cover large areas and provided as well as the inspection of the flare provided other benefits such as identifying potential dropped objects (PDO) which may have been difficult to spot. Crucially, the UAS facilitates the application of a screening tool that allows closer inspection of suspect areas and ongoing monitoring over a period of time to evaluate the rate of degradation. This enables operators to plan maintenance and repair in a planned and budgeted, structured way.”

In general, whilst there is significant upside to UAS inspections, there are also challenges to overcome. As Helen explained, “The UAS can capture very detailed data but it can’t carry out repairs which a team could. Similarly, it relies on experts to operate the kit, guide it to the right locations/suspect areas and identify further inspection requirements.”

Furthermore, whilst UAS inspection provides opportunities for economies when viewed as an end-to-end process, the upfront investment can be greater than with a traditional inspection. Helen said, “Operators are sometimes daunted by the initial layout but this needs to be carefully evaluated against the costs of a traditional inspection, as well as the safety of personnel. Whilst this is likely to vary between applications, it has been our experience that most operators continue to opt for UAS inspection. However, in the current climate, it is scrutinised as not essential for some tasks and a ‘nice to have’ so we have subsequently seen a decline of usage in the last 10 months.”

CASE STUDY: ‘Test and learn’ by Lloyd’s Register with Maersk Drilling, Keppel and Sky-Futures to investigate the safe and effective application of UAS inspection in offshore rig inspection

Overview

Purpose:

– Evaluate the UAS capabilities, safety and effectiveness in offshore rig inspection
– Investigate and improve inspections and reduce inspection costs
– Recommend areas and inform technology development roadmap

Scope:

The scope was to assess the capabilities of UAS by conducting a series of test cases using an industry standard UAS service provider on a Jack-Up drilling rig owned by Maersk Drilling.

Test cases were devised based on Lloyd’s Register DROPS checklists and other cases created from typical Jack-Up inspection scenarios from Lloyd’s Register knowledge base.

Lloyd’s Register Senior Specialist Andy Frankland said: “The Jack-Up Rig had recently arrived in the shipyard for some upgrade work and was in the process of pre-loading dockside when the UAS project started. For this reason, it was decided to start the UAS test & learn by conducting an ‘inspection’ of the exterior of the hull, before continuing with under the helideck. Once the pre-load operation was completed, the jacking leg and derrick inspection would take place.”

Typical process

1. Risk assessment, flight & work permit
2. Multi-party coordination
3. Toolbox talk and clarification of objectives
4. Equipment setup
5. Pre-flight checklist
6. FPV visuals and secondary views
7. Clear area for ground take off or hand launch; set emergency landing
8. On the spot, real-time general visual inspection
9. Battery endurance approximately 15 minutes per data collection flight
10. Off-site post-processing, hardware/software image enhancements

Outcome

A range of learnings were captured, covering safety, regulatory, technical, data and operational issues, which input into the development of the Lloyd’s Register guidance notes for safe UAS inspections.

Onshore Oil and Gas Drone Inspection Saves Client $4m in Egypt

Onshore Oil and Gas Drone Inspection Saves Client $4m in Egypt

Business Challenge

A client with a petrochemicals plant based in Northern Egypt commissioned Sky-Futures to complete five live flare onshore drone inspections. The company had a requirement to understand the conditions of the flares to decide whether a shutdown was required, what parts would need to be ordered beforehand, and if any refurbishment was required.

Solutions

Once Sky-Futures’ flare expert was in receipt of the general arrangement drawings for the flare tips, the team began to plan the inspection. Based on the type of technology in use and Sky-Futures flare experience, the inspection was planned over the course of 3 days.

The onshore sight allowed the drone remote-pilots to select the best take-off and landing sites that would optimise the data collected by the drone of the flares. In total and because of the prior planning and understanding of the flare technology, the inspections of five live flares took only two days.

Results

Following the inspection, 5 separate live flare inspection reports were issued by Sky-Futures flare expert, David English. As a result, the Oil and Gas Company were able to effectively plan for their shutdown, with technical assistance from Sky-Futures flare expert. They were able to identify parts required and order spares in good time, minimising the shutdown period.

Saving Cost ($)

days lost production saved

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North Sea offshore structural drone inspections saved Oil & Gas client 80% cost

North Sea offshore structural drone inspections saved Oil & Gas client 80% cost

Business Challenge

Sky-Futures were tasked with completing a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) Inspection for a major oil and gas client’s large, shallow water oil platform in the UK North Sea such that they could make an informed decision with respect to the condition of the assets.

The project was large with 14 separate inspection scopes including; underdeck, turbine exhausts, flare tower, flare tower bridge support, flare stack and an external perimeter sweep and other hard to access structural areas.

Solutions

Because of the scale of the task, the UAV operating team planned in detail how they would gather all the inspection data in a safe and efficient manner. This included highlighting flight plans, no-fly zones and detailed inspection requirements to ensure that the inspection data was gathered in a safe and efficient manner.

As well as flying the UAV from the platform, the Sky-Futures team also flew from a support vessel in order to get the highest quality data. Despite the size of the scope, the UAV inspection was completed in 12 days, and because of this, an additional scope of work on an outlying platform was also completed during the time-frame. All areas were captured using a combination of High Definition video, stills and thermal imagery.

Results

The client praised Sky-Futures for their flexibility, especially due to the fact that the UAV team were working on an extremely busy and complex platform, but carried out the inspection with the minimum of interference. All the while, it was ensured that our safety procedures were of an excellent standard and not compromised.

The client commented that image and video data was of significant value in providing a good understanding of the condition of the platform whilst the reports provided a good baseline understanding of the platform condition. The outcome of the inspection was that it negated the requirement for a rope access inspection that had previously been planned.

days of rope access inspection work

days of support vessel hire for supporting rope access inspection work

days of work that would have been required during a shutdown

Watch The Inspection Video