Nowadays, Unmanned Air Vehicles (Drones) applications in many industries has been a reality. Drone technology evolution is really fast offering many capabilities that make work faster, easier and cost efficient. In this article, I am focusing on ship inspections with drones giving useful insights by the perspective of a former Class Surveyor and current ship repair manager myself.
There are few companies in the market that are capable of inspecting the entire ship ( including all cargo holds, tanks, voids, duct keels) , using latest drone technology with very skillful pilots and having deep knowledge of ships.
What are the advantages for the customer (ship owners) from drone ship inspections?
First and most important: Cost savings.
No tank preparation and scaffolding is required as there is is no human presence in confined spaces. Additionally, scaffolding needs time to be built, time for a ship equals money. Inspections are done faster as drones fly into spaces and do not get physically exhausted as humans. High resolution cameras, able to detect successfully cracks and other defects make the repair planning prior dry-dock easier, avoiding surprises during dry docking time.
Another important advantage, inspections can be done during sailing as there is no safety hazard of humans falling into the tanks due to ship movements. It saves time on drydock or time stay in the port for the completion of a Special or Intermediate Survey. The time gain, translates in money gain by ship operation. It has been estimated than the average ship owner’s total cost savings from drone ship inspection are minimum 60000 euro per ship, which is quite interesting for both small and big fleet owners.
Dangerous access ways such as rope access and inspection by raft filling a cargo tank with water, are no longer needed. Entrance to confined spaces with the presence of dangerous gases , is no longer necessary. Safety is another big advantage of drone ship inspection.
The major Class societies have embracing drone inspections because it is a safer way as their Surveyors do not have the risk entering confined spaces. Class Societies have certified drone ship inspection providers as external specialists.
Data storage and history records of videos and pictures is another big advantage. After the completion of the inspection, the Surveyor or Superintendent can always come back to the videos/pictures and focus on specific points of concern. This is done easier and faster from the 3D mapping of the entire ship from processing of the photo data. It is really like entering all ship spaces and tanks virtually, easy and fast.
Summarizing, ship inspection by drones is very efficient and safe and there is a lot to see and expect from drones in the future.
Project Manager at Damen Shipyards - Strategic partner at OPG Innovations