Stork Air drone technology for NDT

Stork Air drone technology for NDT

“Stork Air” drone technology for NDT*

Interview with Mr. Jeroen Beunk, NDT* Technician at Stork Thermeq.

*Non Destructive Testing

The fast-growing global drone industry focusses on commercial applications in several sectors. E.g. utilities, energy, mining, construction, real estate, media, film production, defense and agriculture. In the energy sector Stork Thermeq started initial NDT-inspections inside boiler systems. During an interview Mr. Jeroen Beunk explains experiences and challenges for the future.

For which kind of inspection services is the Stork-drone suitable?
The Stork drone is a special equipped drone (or UAV-Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) for inspections in confined – all indoor – spaces. Examples are inspections of boilers, bunkers (WtE – Waste-To-Energy), chimneys and various (air)channels.
We have recently been using our ‘customized drone’ at our client Twence for boiler inspections.

Are there any regulations (national legislation) for operating drone-techniques inside/outside power equipment?
Yes, there are restrictions for outdoor flying with drones for commercial purposes. At this time, Stork isn’t pursuing to fly or do drone inspections outside.

Is the Stork-drone customized for inspections in boiler systems?
The Stork drone is indeed customized for inspections in boilers systems. The drone has the capability of avoiding obstacles, so it will keep a certain distance of the inspected object at all cause.
The drone is also equipped with a custom additional lighting system to provide the camera with enough light, due to the poor lighting circumstances inside a boiler system.
Because we’re making ultra-high definition images and video footage (4K or 12 megapixels) the added lights are essential for the required quality and contrast.

What kind of sensors are used for distance control (to the boiler wall e.g. critical boiler components)?
The distance control system is based on a ultrasonic system and uses Intel‘s RealSense technology that scans the environment for objects. This avoids objects automatically, so there is no chance of damaging the drone or the inspected object.

Which (3D or 360°) software is used for analyzing the visual data?
Stork is using 3D- software from 3DFLOW, named 3DF Zephyr Pro. This program is capable to build a very detailed 3D model out of the acquired video footage or images.
We are capable to build a 3D model of an inspected part within five days. The model can be used for measurements and is very useful for presenting the condition of the clients asset and for comparison over a longer period of time.

Is 3D-modeling applicable for reverse engineering of boiler components?
Reverse engineering of larger objects is optional, because the 3D model can be easily exported to a CAD program.

Is the Stork-drone a ‘stand-alone feature’ or is it used in addition to existing NDT-techniques?
Actually the Stork-drone is a ‘stand-alone feature’ that can be used prior to the existing NDT-techniques.
Due to the extremely high video quality we can observe areas with a high risk or even flaws before scaffolding is erected.
Our NDT-Department at Stork Thermeq has level 2 and 3 certified inspectors. They are able to provide support with evaluation of the video/photo footage.

What are the customer benefits for this kind of visual inspections?
Firstly Stork Thermeq is working according to REACH Beyond Zero. Reach Beyond Zero is Stork’s global platform for delivering continuous improvement in HSEQ performance.
Especially for inspections in areas that are hard to reach by men there’s no need for scaffolding or rope access with all additional risks.
The second benefit is its turnaround time. It’s a very fast inspection method with a live video feed for the client. If done prior to shut-downs, valuable data can be acquired to shorten the downtime of power equipment. So it really reduces costs for maintenance.

Are there any peripheral applications in the power sector for drones? E.g. for emission measurements.
Stork Thermeq hasn’t been operating with any peripheral applications yet, but the technical possibilities are many. There are sensors available for detecting gasses, radiation and more essential parameters in the power sector.
Also thermal imaging can be performed within an asset of our customers.

What kind of expectations do you have (as NDT-engineer) for applying drones in your daily activities?
It’s a great addition to the inspection methods we are utilizing at the moment. Drone inspections are innovative inspection methods. The customer demand is growing rapidly and the possibilities are developing daily.

Drone technology in practice