Corrosion engineers take Nondestructive Testing (NDT) measurements at height as a method of determining the condition of Oil & Gas and other assets such as flare stacks, boilers, above ground storage and pressure vessels, piping and more. To do this at elevation currently the engineer may need to utilize a lift, scaffolding, ladders, or ropework or even inspection trucks with elevated baskets, sometimes cranes or even specialty access such as rigging catwalks, or other solutions. The engineer will often hold a handheld digital testing device to the asset to take the measurements in these scenarios. While NDT inspection programs can dramatically increase the safety and integrity of infrastructure, industrial and manufacturing assets, access requirements in performing these inspections at elevation introduces risk. NDT inspection sites often require access to elevated areas and require the use of personal fall protection equipment (safety harness and lanyard). Working at height is dangerous, due to the possibility of falls, as well as being time-consuming due to access. In certain instances, it may also require taking an asset, such as a flare stack or chimney stack, offline to allow it to cool so it can be accessed to take NDT readings.
Utilizing an aerial robotics platform that makes contact with a surface in order to gather NDT measurements such as Dry Film Thickness (DFT), Surface Profile (SP), or Ultrasonic Thickness (UT) allows workers to remain safely on the ground. Since there is no need to move a lift, scaffolding or ladders and minimal movements required by the corrosion engineer or the robotic operator, the NDT measurement process can be faster in addition to being safer. Further, since the aerial robotic system (drone) contains onboard computers and sensors it is able to capture a lot of data during the exercise of an NDT inspection regime.
Use of these aerial robotic NDT systems in offshore and marine environments carries unique challenges and operational variables. The Aerial Robotic System described in this paper afford safer, cheaper, and better NDT measurements and allow a more robust viewpoint into assets conditions than the slower and more expensive manual method. While early adopters in the offshore Oil & Gas and maritime industry stand to gain the most from implementing these systems they are also assuming the most risk until the systems become an industrial standard.