Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Drones to Replace Manual Work in Power Plant Inspections?

With their temperatures surging up to a thousand degrees Celsius, power plants need to be regularly and closely monitored for eventual wear and tear. US researchers claim drones can do it precisely, efficiently, quickly and safely...

Thoroughly inspecting power plants usually involve the dangerous tasks of climbing scaffolds and entering dark areas with temperatures-comparable-to-an-oven over at least a month. That practice may soon be a thing of the past.

Researchers at the University of Georgia in the USA have developed a sonar navigation system for drones that aims to improve the safety and efficiency of power plant inspections.

Looking to bats?

The objective of the team was to develop a navigation system that would eventually allow drones to replace manual work in power plant inspections. It, however, was not that easy.

The team had to face the challenge of developing a technology that could provide a reliable and precise signal despite the harsh environment of the generators. In the process of evolving the technology, the team found out that electromagnetic and material interference makes GPS and some navigation techniques difficult to use. The solution? The team looked to bats.

“It’s based on how bats navigate in a cave,” succinctly explained one of the researchers. The team developed a drone with a 360-degree rotatable scanner that sends ultrasound beams to the walls that could reflect pulse signals back to the sensor. This allows the team to accurately map the interiors of the steam rooms.

Replacing manual inspections with drones?

The team claims that with the use of the drone that they developed, inspections can be done within a day, instead of weeks or months. They added that since generators need not shut down during the “drone inspections”, the technology could increase power plant efficiency and save money.

Epilogue: Safety... everyone, everyday

Inspecting power plants, with the harsh environment inside the equipment and the dangerous procedures involved in the process, could pose serious risks to engineers and inspection professionals. In this light, all entities involved in the inspection of power stations should adopt an occupational health and safety (OH&S) policy to prevent injury and ill health to their workforce. All managers and supervisors should be responsible for ensuring that their staff are trained in approved work procedure and that they follow safe work methods and related regulations.

All stakeholders should be required to support the OH&S program of their companies, and health and safety should be a part of the daily routine of all staff members. 

OH&S is at the core of Altaaqa Global’s culture. To learn more:

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Altaaqa Global
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