Product: UAV inspections take off


Scottish engineering firm Cyberhawk recently put its unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) through its paces with the completion of its first full class inspection, across 19 tanks on board an oil tanker, for classification society American Bureau of Shipping (ABS).

The inspection included 12 cargo oil tanks, two slop tanks, and five ballast tanks, with ABS present to ensure each inspection complied with its rules for tankers. It also had to comply with the US Coast Guard’s Critical Area Inspection Plan, as the vessel is American-flagged and operates in Alaskan waters.

Cyberhawk said its UAVs overcame liabilities involved in traditional methods of inspection, which would require putting up scaffold or rope inside the tank and ABS surveyors working at height to carry out visual inspections, as well as non-destructive testing (NDT) technicians taking thickness measurements.

In addition, the company said UAV inspection prevents the risk of scaffolding damaging the tank. In this case, without the need to set up and dismantle scaffolding, the Cyberhawk drone inspections controlled by a two-man team took just one day instead of seven per tank.

Cyberhawk noted that NDT technicians were still needed to take thickness readings (at accessible levels) to meet the ABS survey requirements for this class of vessel. However, in mid-2018, the company is due to conduct its first proof of concept on an ultrasonic thickness testing solution for UAVs that would negate the need for scaffolding, rope access technicians, or rafting solutions for this type of tanker survey.

Malcolm Connolly, technical director at Cyberhawk, was part of the tank inspection team. He said, “Since we conducted the first UAV tank inspection back in 2015, this solution has become increasingly adopted within the industry.”

The Cyberhawk team completed more than 350 flights and collected more than 600 GB of data. The data, including 360° views inside the tank and high definition imagery, with defects and areas of interest highlighted, is stored in iHawk cloud-based visual asset management software, which has been designed to host the huge volumes of data captured by UAVs and allow users to access this easily.