The benefits of using advanced drone technology for inspecting boiler internals at a power station were on full display when rope access specialist Skyriders Access Specialists recently undertook a project in the Nkangala district of Mpumalanga.
The Elios SkyEye drone clearly demonstrated not only how accurate and efficient this technology is, but also highlighted its safety aspects, as there is no need to erect expensive and cumbersome scaffolding to gain access to carry out a manual inspection.
“Our drone technology is specifically suited for visual inspection in indoor environments like the large coal-fired boilers and ducting at power stations. Traditional drones cannot use GPS tracking and stability when indoors,” explains Skyriders Marketing Manager Mike Zinn. Elios SkyEye, on the other hand, is collision-tolerant for flexible and highly accessible remote visual inspection.
The drone incorporates a full HD camera, a thermal camera, and an onboard LED lighting system with remotely adjustable intensity. This means that an array of onboard tools is available for any lighting conditions. A cutting-edge wireless communications system with a live video feedback means that the drone can be brought into usually inaccessible places up to many hundred metres beyond the line of sight.
The Elios ground station comprises a remote controller, a tablet, and a purpose-designed ground-control application, providing the pilot with live data and an SD live video stream captured by the drone. All the information and controls are on hand for efficient and safe remote operation. In addition, the drone is dust- and splash-resistant and can operate in environments from 0°C to 50°C.
“Our boiler inspection work has a huge amount of experience behind it. There are other companies that carry out boiler maintenance, but they lack the seasoned piloting capability of our drone team. Our team is really brilliant in ensuring that the deliverable is clean and stable footage, affording them the necessary time as well to carry out a thorough inspection,” highlights Zinn.
“Our drone pilots are just so good at what they do. That fantastic imagery we have access to, and which we then use as the basis of our inspection reports, really sets us up for continued success in this important sector.” Another key differentiator for Skyriders is that it has been issued with a Remote Operating Certificate (ROC) from the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA). This means it is certified to deploy its drones outdoors within civil airspace, thereby dramatically extending the scope of its inspection services for clients.
Zinn is confident that the project at this large coal-fired power station will secure additional work for the Elios SkyEye drones. The application of the latest inspection technology is a fitting capstone to Skyriders’ long involvement with various power stations.