Although there are many drones that can deliver some great aerial inspections, the Flyability Elios 2 is unique in many ways. For starters, it’s purpose-built for inspection and surveying work, with its eye-catching collision-tolerant frame enabling it to access small and often inhospitable or dangerous places with ease. Where your standard models (and their owners) might fear to tread, the Elios 2 is right at home in tight interiors and vast GPS-less environments such as mines and tunnels – where its 10,000 lumen LEDs and a thermal camera can also be extremely useful.
As with other craft such as the DJI Matrice 200 Series or the Parrot Anafi, the benefits of a good inspection drone are numerous, saving time, money and even lives. As mentioned, a craft such as the Elios 2 can be flown into places that are dangerous to humans – either because of the risk of falling from height (the biggest cause of fatalities in industrial inspections) or in the likes of cramped pipelines where oxygen deprivation, toxic gases and rogue chemicals can pose an inherent danger.
Aerial drone inspections are also proven to improve efficiency, with projects requiring less staff to operate and being timed in hours rather than days. A drone can also negate the need to shut down equipment in order to facilitate an on-foot team who might need to put up scaffolding and so on, while simultaneously offering the ability to capture a variety of high-quality data that can prove useful in more than one application.
You can find out more about the Elios 2 and how its many characteristics are geared towards high-performance inspection work in a variety of environments in this recent blog post, but here are just a few use cases where an Elios system has really come into its own…
Tank Inspection Case Study: Petrobas FPSO Inspection
Our first example takes us to the South Atlantic Ocean, some 300km from Santos in Brazil. It was here that the state-owned oil giant Petrobas was operating and regularly undertaking inspections of cargo and ballast tanks to adhere to health and safety protocols, as well as staying up to date with any necessary maintenance – which led to the first ever drone inspection of an offshore Floating, Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) tank.
When you’re this far from land, if anything needs to be closed down it can be costly in terms of the time and parts to replace it and so the Petrobas team is constantly checking for cracks or fractures in those tanks, as well as corrosion and other issues. Routinely a tank inspection would involve a four-man team using ropes and scaffolding that take an entire day, and offers a certain level of risk to those four people who are being sent into high and dangerous places.
To counter this risk and greatly increase efficiency, Petrobas called in Terra Drone Brazil (part of the larger Japan-based Terra Drone Corporation) to offer an aerial solution with the Elios 2. Using just a two-man team, working in an entirely safe environment, they were able to conduct the same inspection in just one hour, delivering high definition video and photos across all 40 pre-defined close-up inspection points. Taking into account the increased safety, along with the obvious time and cost benefits, we’d imagine the Elios 2 has made many a similar inspection since!
“Not only is unmanned FPSO tank inspection safer, but it is also much quicker and more precise than manual inspection. Further, drone inspections for cargo tanks can lead to potential cost-savings as well.”
Marcelo Belleti, Executive Director, Terra Drone Brazil
Utility Case Study: Severn Trent Water
Similar to the Oil & Gas industry, inspection drones are also finding increasing usage in Utilities. Powerlines, solar farms, gas pipelines and more can all benefit from reducing the need to place humans into dangerous areas and for fast and frequent aerial inspections, and the water industry is no different. As with Petrobas, tank inspections are crucial, along with pipes, pipe bridges, water towers, coastal outfalls and various other structures.
Severn Trent Water was one of many companies looking to improve its inspection processes using drones, reducing the risk of putting people at dangerous heights and also removing the time and costs involved with setting up scaffolding for those on-foot inspections. After a consultation period that included various trials and use case demonstrations, the team went for a full fleet of drones, with the Elios 2 also joined by some of DJI’s finest: the Inspire 2, Matrice 210, Phantom 4 and Mavic Pro.
In its first report on the impact of drone inspections, Severn Trent Water announced savings of £750,000, and is hopeful that this figure will double in the next year. The first job alone paid for the team and the addition of the Elios inspection system. This is just one of many examples where the financial benefits are clear, while the less quantifiable, but hugely significant, increased safety elements in removing the risk to humans from the equation are also a very compelling reason to adopt a drone inspection solution.
“Our savings from the team were £750,000 using the drone and in our PR (price review) 19 period we’re hoping to double this.”
Duncan Turner, Drone Team Lead, Severn Trent Water
Case Study: West Yorkshire Police
As with many industries, the police – and the other emergency services – can find a multitude of uses for an aerial solution. With resources stretched to the limit, having a drone that can significantly reduce the manpower needed for a searches or inspections as well as preventing officers from having to put themselves into potentially dangerous situations, can make a big difference.
For the likes of West Yorkshire Police, drones can be used in the search for missing people or to track fleeing suspects on the move. They can also be used to assist investigations into serious road traffic collisions, major crime scenes or industrial accidents, while the live feed from a drone’s camera can also offer great situational awareness in any ongoing incident – with the ability to deliver high-quality photos and footage for evidence. With a fleet that also includes a fleet of Mavic Pros, the Elios enables the officers to get an eyes-on view of places that they might be hard to reach, or contain a possible risk to officers.
One early example saw the craft used to fly in through a first-floor window to get a live view inside a large building to get a view inside for possible flashpoints. On another occasion, the team was able to fly inside a smaller building in search of a suspect, who it turned out was hiding in the bedroom and chose to give himself up after hearing the tell-tale sound of the Elios closing in. It’s like having an invincible police dog with an HD camera attached – who can also fly!
“We wanted a remote vehicle that would get us into areas that would reduce the risk to officers and be able to explore and pass back actionable intelligence.”
PC Sean Benson, West Yorkshire Police
Case Study: Warehouse and Distribution Centres
Admittedly this is more of an Elios 2 demonstration than a specific case study, although there are plenty of examples of other drones being used to provide fast and highly detailed inspections of huge warehouses or distribution centres. These can be vast locations, filled with miles of shelving packed with goods stacked right up to the ceiling, which can be tricky and dangerous to access, as well as a very slow walk on foot.
Some warehouses use motorised systems with rollers to move things around, which becomes an inspection issue itself with motors and other parts needing regular maintenance and repairs. These would routinely be checked using scaffolding and a rope access team, which would require the whole system to be shut down for 24 hours, before being fixed and then another cooldown delay before starting up again. A drone inspection team could do the same thing in just a few flights, and without requiring the system being stopped for a second – although the rope team would still need to be called in for any repairs.
A model like the Elios 2 with its collision tolerant frame and Distance Lock feature can also prove a great solution for stock checking within such cramped locations. Either using manual flights or with automated mission planning, you can easily swoop up and down the aisles shooting 4K footage for a quick and easy look around that large network of shelving and stacked goods. If you get creative with barcode scanning software or QR codes you can even do a full stock-take without enduring several days walking around with clipboards and iPads.
“Within five minutes or a single flight you can get up to a certain point, check a motor and identify a fault in a matter of seconds.”
George Burne, UAV Strategist, COPTRZ
Case Study: Liverpool Echo Arena Fire
We’ve looked at how the police can make great use of an Elios system for inspections and the fire service is very similar in the many ways it can implement UAVs into its everyday operations. Obviously its thermal camera can also prove useful when coupled with the RGB visual imagery, giving operators a unique insight into ongoing situations.
A drone can offer great situational awareness of an ongoing blaze, whether it’s to monitor the spread of the fire and directing firefighters to key points that could more effectively quell the flames, or to look for hotspots that could prove dangerous or even identify people trapped inside. However, with the Elios system designed for close-up inspections in inhospitable places, it has also proven itself useful once the fire begins to subside.
When the Liverpool Echo Arena multi-storey car park caught fire on New Year’s Eve 2016, manned inspections of the floors were deemed too dangerous as collapses were still a factor. Eventually Flyability was called in (with the original Elios back then) and was able to send a drone in to get up-close with the car that was the suspected source of the fire – so close in fact that it was able to get inside the engine bay and boot space, using its LEDs and combined cameras to give the fire and structural teams some key information without putting firefighters at risk.
With the source confirmed, the Elios was able to conduct further inspections of the surrounding columns and beams, along with damaged drainage channels and provide a general overview across several floors of the building. And to further prove the flexibility of UAV systems, the insurers called in to assess the damage also used drones to check the destruction rumoured to cost them up to £20 million…
“Due to the Elios 2′ unique cage it has the ability to land within the engine bay of the vehicle in question.”
George Burne, UAV Strategist, COPTRZ
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If you have an application for the Elios 2 inspection drone but would like to know more about the capabilities of the drone then visit our product page here or contact our Elios 2 expert George Burne on firstname.lastname@example.org.