The Future of Indoor Inspections: 5 Ways Indoor Drones Are Improving Inspections Today

As the drone industry exits its infancy and moves into full adulthood we’re seeing more and more drones being created for specific applications.

The Parrot Bluegrass is made just for agricultural use cases, while Impossible Aerospace’s US-1 is made for public safety uses (with a special emphasis on law enforcement applications).

Even when you look at the commercial drones created by DJI, the largest drone manufacturer in the world, they’re starting to be focused on more narrow use cases. In advertising its latest drone in the Matrice line, the M300, the company has focused more narrowly on the public safety and inspection sectors, including several features made just to support those two areas.

Image Credit: DJI

Following this trend in commercial drones, Flyability’s Elios 2 is a drone made just for flying indoors. It sits in a cage designed to allow the drone to sustain collisions while in flight, making it ideal for flying in confined spaces where crashing is likely.

The most common uses for an indoor drone like the Elios 2 are for industrial inspections in industries like Oil & Gas or Mining, where being able to collect visual data is a crucial part of operations, but can also pose many hazards and challenges.

Image Credit: Flyability

Drones are a great way to collect visual data without harming or even needing to touch an asset, since they can fly close to it and film without ever having to touch its surface. Collecting data in this manner, where the object being examined isn’t physically affected in any way, is called Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) by inspectors—NDT can refer to a drone filming the inside of a chimney during an inspection or even to a doctor taking an X-ray to better understand a patient’s injury.

Using a caged indoor drone, you can fly into a huge boiler, pressure vessel, or stope (a mining term for an excavation) and get high quality video on its condition. As drones continue to improve, they’re starting to be able to fully replace the need to send people into these dangerous, confined spaces.

Here are five ways that indoor drones are improving inspections today.

1. Safety

Using an indoor drone to collect video and images inside an asset can replace the need for an inspector to physically enter it. This means a huge reduction in exposing inspectors to hazardous situations and a big increase in safety.

2. Savings

Indoor industrial inspections can be incredibly expensive because they often require inspectors to build single-use scaffolding just to reach everything inside the object being inspected. The materials and labor alone that are required to build this scaffolding can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Also, the time taken to erect and take down scaffolding means longer downtimes for the thing being inspected. In the case of a boiler or some other piece of equipment essential to an industrial process like refining oil, this downtime can represent as much as a million dollars a day in lost revenue. Using an indoor drone to remove the need for scaffolding can reduce downtimes by several days, which means huge potential savings for companies that require these types of inspections.

Image Credit: Flyability

3. Higher Quality Videos and Photos

As drones improve, so do the cameras they use.

In some cases, using a drone to collect video and stills during an inspection can mean a higher quality visual output for inspectors than they might get using either their naked eye or the cameras otherwise available to them.

4. Increased Frequency of Inspections

In addition to savings, indoor drones can help improve the overall efficiency of inspections by removing all of the extra steps that must be taken when a person has to physically enter a confined space.

Because of the reduction in expenses and increase in efficiency enabled by indoor drones, many companies that use indoor drones have started increasing the frequency of their inspections, performing inspections even three or four times more often a year than they had when conducting them manually.

This increased frequency means that potential problems in assets get revealed more quickly, thus further enhancing the safety on site. Increasing the frequency of inspections can also help reduce harmful emissions and increase the longevity of a company’s assets, since potential problems can be uncovered and addressed even earlier in the maintenance process.

5. Improved Record of Past Inspections

Video captured by indoor drones like the Elios 2 can be reviewed for specific measurements inside of an asset, allowing inspectors to see where exactly a flaw is located. This information can be saved as a historic record of an asset, a kind of visual footprint of the asset's condition at a specific moment in time, allowing inspectors to return to that data later to see how a problem might have developed.

Image Credit: Flyability

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