There are many different types of unmanned aerial vehicles, called UAV’s for short. In the petrochemical flare industry, a necessary tool for effective flare tip inspection is the UAV called the turbine powered rotor craft.
Rotorcraft Unmanned Aviation
The rotor craft, a remote-controlled helicopter , has a high resolution camera mounted on board. With the handling of a highly skilled UAV operator, flare inspection personnel are able to take extremely detailed and clear pictures of every angle of the flare tip while the flare is in operation. Moreover, the flare inspection team is doing this while they are safely distant from the high temperature environment of the flare, with feet on solid ground.
The air around a flare in operation is extremely turbulent because of the heat dispersion going on there, couple that with existing wind and you have a situation where only an expert specifically familiar with flare stack aerial inspection should go. And the rotorcraft operator’s sole focus is the safe handling of the rotorcraft in flight. While the UAV operator manages the rotorcraft, another flare inspection team member is remotely managing the mega pixel camera on board. The photographer is an expert not only with the camera, but also in knowledge and experience of flare components. It is the photographer’s job to make sure that all imagery clearly shows every aspect of the flare tip and its components, and that all issues that need to be addressed are clearly captured digitally.
The Survey Portfolio
Once the remote flare tip inspection is complete, all the imagery is analyzed. Everything that can be ascertained by a visible evaluation is put into a report with a portfolio of all the images. What repairs or rebuilds are obviously needed as a result of the visible inspection are noted, of course, but a good visible inspection might also be a first step to further investigations. For instance, the high-resolution aerial photography imagery might indicate that high heat may be distressing metal components. The images themselves may not prove that there is weakening in metal parts, so further testing may be necessary. But even so, the aerial photography can alert the client what issues might need to be watched and what might need immediate follow-up. That all this information can be collected 450 feet in the air with all souls on the ground is a welcome advancement in petrochemical technology.