Drones could be used for tank inspections on tankers and offshore production systems where satellite positioning is not possible using laser ranging and artificial intelligence (AI)
A successful test with an autonomous aerial vehicle has opened the prospect of conducting remote inspections of tanker cargo tanks.
DNV GL and Scout Drone Inspection completed the industry-first inspection of an oil tank on a floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel in Norway in June, after collaborating to develop an autonomous drone system to overcome the challenges of tank inspections.
Together, they inspected a 19.4-m high oil tank on Altera Infrastructure’s FPSO Petrojarl Varg. This was the latest step in technology qualification, which could lead to tank inspections becoming safer and more efficient.
“This latest test showcases the next step in automation and using AI to analyse live video,” said DNV GL Maritime director of offshore classification Geir Fuglerud.
“As class we are always working to take advantage of advances in technology to make our surveys more efficient and safer for surveyors, delivering the same quality while minimising our operational downtime for our customers,” said Mr Fuglerud.
Altera Infrastructure is committed to using these technologies to raise efficiency and safety, said Altera Infrastructure production department’s senior vice president for technical and projects Astrid Jørgenvåg. “We want to be at the forefront,” she said. “We see great potential for drone inspection technology to meet the challenges of the inspection process going forward,” Ms Jørgenvåg added.
Scout Drone Inspection developed the drone for tank inspections by DNV GL surveyors. The drone uses light detection and ranging (Lidar) to navigate inside the tank, where reception of satellite signals for accurate positioning is unavailable in this enclosed space.
Lidar creates a 3D map of the tank and enables all images and video to be accurately geo-tagged with position data. A pilot remotely controlled the drone using its flight assistance functions during the tank inspection.
Scout Drone Inspection and DNV GL expect drones will navigate more autonomously as the technology matures.
DNV GL developed AI to interpret the video to spot any cracks. The camera and algorithms will detect anomalies below the surface such as corrosion and structural deformations in the future.
“This is another important step towards autonomous drone inspections,” said Scout Drone Inspection chief executive Nicolai Husteli. “Up until now the process has been completely analogue but technology can address the urgent need to make the process more efficient and safer.”
The video from the drone inspection was livestreamed via Scout Drone Inspection’s cloud-system back to Altera Infrastructure’s headquarters in Trondheim, Norway. Here, the footage was monitored by engineers.
DNV GL watched the footage simultaneously, opening up the possibility for stakeholders to work together from different locations.
Altera Infrastructure operates more than 50 offshore assets, including FPSOs, floating storage ships, shuttle tankers, towing vessels and has a unit for maintenance and safety. FPSOs need to have their storage tanks inspected every five years by class societies.
View video of the Petrojarl Varg oil tank inspection using a drone by DNV GL
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