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A successful test of inspection via autonomous drone

June 9, 2020
The technique uses AI to analyze live video.

A drone has successfully inspected a 19.4 meter high oil tank on board a floating production, storage and offloading vessel—the latest step in a technology-qualification process that could lead to tank inspections becoming safer and more efficient, according to Scout Drone Inspection and DNV GL, which have been partnering to develop an autonomous-drone system to overcome the common challenges of tank inspections. 

The drone in action

Using a drone in combination with an algorithm to gather and analyze video footage can significantly reduce survey times and staging costs, while at the same time improving surveyor safety, per the partners.  

“We’ve been working with drone surveys since 2015,” said Geir Fuglerud, director of offshore classification at DNV GL—Maritime. “This latest test showcases the next step in automation, using AI to analyze live video. 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 minimizing our operational downtime for our customers.”

The drone, developed by Scout Drone Inspection, uses LiDAR to navigate inside the tank, where GPS-reception is not available in the enclosed space. A LiDAR creates a 3-D map of the tank and all images and video is accurately geo-tagged with position data.  During the test, the drone was controlled by a pilot using the drone’s flight-assistance functions, but as the technology matures it will be able to navigate more and more autonomously.  

“This is another important step towards autonomous drone inspections,” said Nicolai Husteli, CEO of Scout Drone Inspection.  “Up until now the process has been completely analogue but technology can address the urgent need to make the process more efficient and safer.”