You’re standing in remote gas field, staring up at a flame-topped tower extending high into the bright blue sky. You want to inspect the top of the tower to make sure everything is running as it should be. How can it be done?
For workers at the Moomba Gas Plant in Australia’s Cooper Basin, the job of inspecting flare stacks and their high-in-the-sky tips has for decades been done either with binoculars – a method as unsatisfactory as it sounds – or very expensively and complicatedly with cranes. Now, though, drones are transforming the process.
Mapping Entire Plants
Intel Falcon™ 8+ drones are being used in partnership with Airscope – a provider of aerial inspections, surveying and digital 3-D models – to capture hundreds of images for a holistic 3-D model of a whole plant.
Drones are helping in the vital work of inspections, while also allowing 3-D maps of entire plants to be observed back in the boardroom.
Pre-programmed flight plans allow the drones to capture the hundreds of aerial images in just one flight.
“When people think of drones operating in industrial applications, they think of inspections collecting data from hard-to-reach places,” said Airscope’s director Chris Leslie. “Our business has evolved beyond this where the real efficiencies and return on investment for the client come from providing a digital 3-D representation of their physical assets.
“You could compare this technology to how our lives have changed with innovations such as the smartphone – the time savings and benefits are hard to quantify,” Leslie added.
The benefits are multiplied when looking at clients managing large-scale resource sites due to the number of employees and the potential cost to the business if decisions are made based on inaccurate or incomplete information.”
Succeeding in Challenging Environments
“Intel is committed to producing high-quality, commercial-grade drones that will excel in challenging environments such as the Moomba Gas Plant,” said Anil Nanduri, vice president and general manager of the Drone Group at Intel.
“Looking ahead, we will see a greater focus on automation of both the data capture and more importantly data analysis. This will unlock the ability for greater analyses and inference of large data sets that will be captured entirely by drones, allowing businesses to reduce operational expenses by assessing and predicting maintenance needs.”
Intel Falcon 8+ drones have been used in similar ways yet in very different environments, like helping to inspect historical buildings such as the 15th-century Halberstadt Cathedral in Germany. The environments may vary, but the benefits remain the same. A level of detail that was almost impossible to achieve has been made possible in the inspections of various sites, at the same time as safety is improved and cost is reduced.
“The quality and quantity of data we’re able to access from the Intel Falcon 8+ drone just wouldn’t be possible with any other method or technology,” Leslie concluded. “Moreover, our clients can see every asset from every angle and perspective, providing better situational awareness, insight and increased accuracy for making big decisions.”