Actavo uses Drones for safer site surveys

industrial services provider, Actavo Industrial Solutions, has teamed up with a licensed UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) operator to offer a safe and cost-effective alternative to working at height to carry structural surveys.

The initiative comes in response to growing interest from Actavo’s customer base, and one of the first joint projects to be undertaken is an aerial survey of the towers at a CCGT power station.

Actavo’s partner in the venture is Rotherham-based Vertex Air, which is licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to commercially fly UAVs – more commonly known as drones.  Working with Vertex, Actavo has the capability to offer detailed external structural surveys to its customers across the petrochemical, power, oil and gas, marine, nuclear power, pharmaceutical and offshore sectors. The UAV services offer an alternative to the conventional approach of using scaffolding or rope access.

Explaining the benefits of using UAVs to carry out this work, Actavo business development executive, Anthony Eyre, says:

“This approach offers a number of benefits, the main one from our point of view being the avoidance of risk. A key requirement of health and safety legislation is the elimination of risk wherever possible, and using drones means that we can carry out survey work without having people working at height. It also means that we can reach places which would otherwise involve investment in a full scaffold, and even parts of plants or structures that are inaccessible by humans. This, in turn, translates into a more cost-effective service for our customers. Drone surveys can be set up and carried out quickly, they are highly accurate, and their use means that the customer only has to pay for scaffolding or rope access in places where the need for structural work has already been identified.”

Vertex operates eight-rotor octo-drone UAVs, fitted with the latest GPS technology and high-resolution cameras, which can hover without vibration to give the greatest clarity to the images they capture. With minimal set-up time, their battery life gives an average 15 minutes of flight time, depending on weather conditions, with fast battery changes between flights.

Stu Martin, director at Vertex, says: “We have built up considerable experience in UAV survey work and invested in technology which gives assessment data in the form of photographic image or 3-D drawings which is as accurate as possible. Each survey is pre-programmed working to site plans to ensure that the data we capture delivers the information required.”

As one of the few operators licensed to fly at night, Vertex is also able to offer thermal imaging which can be used for the detection of heat escape from pipework both on structures and underground, which would indicate damage or insulation in need of replacement. Advanced software also gives the

UAVs the capability of carrying out site surveys, picking out gradients to show the lay of the land.

Anthony Eyre adds: “From discussions with our customers, we can see significant potential for a UAV survey capability. It complements many of the services we offer, including scaffolding and rope access as well as the services provided to the power transmission, distribution sectors, protective coatings and insulation services, particularly where we operate long-term inspection and maintenance contracts. It offers a more flexible approach which has benefits for customers in terms of both time and cost saving, but, above all, it reduces the risk element of having people working at what are often considerable heights.”