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Eyes in the sky: part two

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LNG Industry,

David Williams, Texo Drone Survey & Inspection Ltd, UK, presents the latest drone technology set to revolutionise the monitoring and maintenance of LNG plants.

Inspections to produce data in all formats and deal with all hazards

More detailed applications involve the use of multiple UAV platforms with dual payloads and cameras that use a variety of high-quality, factor calibrated and interchangeable lenses that are tailored to meet varying requirements. Thermal systems can cover everything from coupled structural thermal analysis to hot spot identification, leak detection and water ingress detection. Visual and thermal aspects in one inspection or survey for maximum efficiency. Using advanced flight control, highly detailed orthomosaics can be stitched together seamlessly using advanced software systems – to allow for an overview of the specified target area – with the ability to magnify and observe the smallest details.

Quality, quantifiable data is the key principle at the heart of precision inspection by UAV. Texo DSI inspections are supported by a bespoke cloud portal system that allows data to be hosted by the company. The use of the portal enables the direct comparison of historical inspections and interaction with data sets, and analysis tools also generate classification by fault type across a client’s entire portfolio. Data can be generated not just for localised reporting but also regionally and even globally.

Data gathered also includes hyperspectral imaging which collects and processes information from across the electromagnetic spectrum. Hyperspectral imaging deals with the imaging of narrow spectral bands over a continuous spectral range, and produces the spectra of all pixels in the scene. It provides a unique spectral signature for every pixel, which can be used by processing techniques to identify hazardous materials such as asbestos for example. Gas hazards can be detected using Optical Gas Imaging (OGI), which can quickly locate leaks accurately across a wide area and again without the need for shutdowns.

Internal and confined spaces

Internal and external inspections are equally crucial and hugely important at any facility. Operations in confined, unlit and hazardous spaces have long been a major safety and logistical nightmare for plant engineers, often requiring long periods of planning and implementation of access solutions such as rope access and scaffold. This leads to a costly and risky inspection, with the added disadvantage of reduced inspection times due to the time taken to establish access solutions.

UAVs with dual visual and thermal sensor systems, paired with super bright LED lighting allow for safe and highly capable in confined unlit spaces. Rapid deployment and manoeuvrability allow for tanks and other vessel structures to be inspected thoroughly and in as little as 30 minutes. A carbon fibre anti-collision encapsulation system is used on the UAV to allow it to come into direct contact with surfaces and maximise data quality while ensuring that no damage is sustained either by the asset or the UAV itself.

UAV technology that delivers accuracy and certainty

In an increasingly competitive commercial environment, UAV companies need to be ahead of the game and building solutions for clients ‘from the bottom up’ if they are to meet the challenges facing the oil and gas industry, now and in the future. This is precisely the route that Texo Drone Survey and Inspection Ltd has taken.

Investment and innovation have led to class-leading platforms that bring together UAV and survey technologies to deliver previously unavailable capabilities such as highly accurate survey grade LiDAR to the commercial UAV market. The UAVs currently in operation can handle wind speeds of up to 15 m/sec. and have the flexibility to carry a variety of custom payloads; Texo DSI Ltd has permits for operations up to 20 kg – representing a ‘game-changer’ for the energy sector.

UAV surveys are ten times faster than contact-based surveys, and provide a welter of high-definition images. Accuracy of data in conventional LiDAR UAV surveys is generally to around 40 mm; investment and development of UAV vehicles and associated survey software has led to Texo DSI Ltd achieving accuracy of up to 1 – 3 mm in its survey grade LiDAR, which is delivered via its custom-built UAV platform that measures over 1 million points per sec. This gives Texo DSI Ltd the most accurate UAV deployed survey grade LiDAR in the sector. It means that operators can get quick and highly reliable surveys of entire assets in fraction of the time that it would take a traditional survey team.

A constant technological evolution

UAV technology meets a wide range of LNG producer requirements, and the technology is constantly evolving in terms of payloads and applications. Highly accurate inspection data removes uncertainty and error from maintenance and monitoring regimes. Coupled with huge operational benefits, it makes UAV solutions a highly compelling proposition in the contract-driven LNG industry. Quite simply technological innovation is a key part of continued commercial success for UAV companies and LNG producers alike.

Another example of this consistent development and innovation is evident in Texo DSI Ltd launching the world’s first UT integrated UAV system for precision thickness measurement applications on both flat and curved surfaces.

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