Electricity + Control

What appears to be a regular maintenance inspection can quickly turn dangerous for the most experienced teams, particularly where chemicals or gas are involved.

The Elios collision tolerant drone from SkyridersWith this in mind, technology from refractory experts CHB Third Party Inspectorate, recently brought in by Skyriders Access Specialists (Pty) Ltd to inspect a high-vacuum furnace at the SAPREF refinery in KwaZulu-Natal, saw the four chambers of the furnace being inspected by a collision-tolerant drone, named ‘Elios’.

The scope of the project was to inspect the hard-to-reach places that are extremely difficult or dangerous for humans to enter. The drone enters the tight or even inaccessible space from the outside of the unit while the pilot, the CHB expert Visual Observer (VO) and engineers monitor the inspection via a live feed on a monitor.

Flying from chamber to chamber, the drone picks up any irregularities on the screen. The VO can report immediately if a chamber is safe to enter.

The March 2018 inspection took just a day to complete, equating to a massive time-saving over previous methods. This is the first time Skyriders has worked with CHB, and a first for SAPREFas well.

With the drone technology, Skyriders is now able to carry out difficult or high-risk inspections such as those at chemical plants and power generation plants. The timing, efficiency, and safety initiatives required with chemical plants, in particular, means that sending a machine rather than human beings into potentially harmful environments gives us peace of mind, and a huge reduction in potential injuries. Being able to enter difficult places means drones can ensure the areas are safe before general work continues.

Skyriders continues to offer the drone option to its South African clients, and pitches the solution to the rest of the continent.