A UK-based drone inspection firm has created the world’s first UAV with integrated ultrasonic testing capabilities.
If the past five years or so have proved that drones are technically capable of carrying out detailed survey and inspection tasks, the next five will surely be an exploration of whether there is anything they are not capable of. Although a relative newcomer to the scene, Texo Drone Survey and Inspection (DSI) has used its later entry to develop some of the sector’s most innovative kit. In addition to using established UAV platforms, the company has developed and engineered a suite of proprietary unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and payloads to meet some of the more complex problems faced by the energy industry. The result, it says, is the most advanced multi-rotor and fixed-wing fleet available.
This versatile fleet means inspection teams can take on a range of surveys, from asset information modelling (AIM) to optical gas imaging, internal simultaneous localisation and mapping (SLAM) and supply drops – even winching and heavy-lifting applications with some of the larger units.
Given some of more specific requirements of oil and gas operators, Texo also established a dedicated services division – Texo Drone Survey & Inspection (UKCS) – which has achieved a string of world-first inspections in recent months.
Witness the thickness
Most recently, in late September the company announced the deployment of the world’s first UAV with integrated ultrasonic testing (UT) capabilities. For the first time, this enables inspection engineers to undertake a range of thickness measurements, on both flat and curved surfaces, using a remotely operated UAV.
With the ability to indicate, via a unique spot identification system, all UT missions are precise in acquisition and instantaneous in capture and delivery.
Inspection data are combined with a precise photogrammetric visual overlay of the completed survey, pinpointing exact measurement locations on the structure/surface to an accuracy of under 10mm – therefore providing clients with verified inspection data.
So far, the UT payload has been deployed across a number of different sectors and asset types, including both offshore and onshore wind turbines, telecoms and maritime infrastructure.
Demand for this capability actually came from outside the organisation, the company explained to InnovOil by email. “Like all our industry leading solutions, this has been client led. We have listened to the needs of our clients and gone out and developed this world first – again with the overarching safety objective at the core of development (i.e. negating the need to deploy personnel on ropes),” a spokesperson said.
Texo DSI chief operations officer John Wood noted: “This is a major development in the field of inspection engineering. Client feedback has been indicating that this is an area of huge demand and we have worked tirelessly to bring this to the market.”
John added: “We offer an enhanced UT thickness measurement service to our clients, combined with increased safety to personnel and efficiency of data delivery. Like all our class-leading payloads, they are safer than traditional rope access and scaffolding methods and data acquisition can be twenty times faster than by traditional methods – representing significant efficiencies for clients.”
Presented with these additional capabilities, operators seem to have been quick to realise the potential. “The response we have had from clients and the industry has been staggering. We are absolutely delighted that key operators in the energy sector recognise that Texo Drone UKCS has changed the face of technical survey and inspection forever – providing a highly accurate survey and inspection methodology,” the company explained. “The sector has seen the use of drones over the last few years (principally for visual inspection) and they are astounded with the sheer technical advancement and capability of our fleet.”
As for what comes next, the forecast is equally bullish: “There are at least another three world-first applications that are soon to be announced from Texo DSI – watch this space!”