Dutch AkzoNobel’s Marine Coatings Business and the UK-based companies Barrier Group and DroneOps have teamed up to develop a drone capable of remotely inspecting ballast water tanks in an effort to improve “accuracy, efficiencies, as well as the health and safety of ships’ crews and inspection personnel.”
The project, entitled RECOMMS (Remote Evaluation of Coatings and Corrosion on Offshore Marine Structures and Ships), will use virtual reality technology and semi-autonomous operation of a drone to evaluate ballast water tanks and other difficult-to-access areas on vessels and offshore structures, including inspections of coatings and corrosion.
Carried out by crew, surveyors or independent inspectors, such inspections are said to be a risky activity which represents one of the most common causes of work-related fatalities in the industry.
“By replacing human inspections with a drone, routine maintenance can be monitored remotely in real time by office-based staff, with instant feedback available to the vessel or offshore structure’s superintendent,” RECOMMS said.
“Surveys of enclosed spaces and ballast water tanks are an essential part of routine maintenance on board vessels and offshore structures, and are increasingly critical for ship owners. However, inspecting these areas thoroughly can require working at height, entering confined spaces, and negotiating slippery surfaces that could be poorly lit, all of which are high-risk activities that the maritime industry is keen to address,” Michael Hindmarsh, spokesperson for RECOMMS and Business Development Manager at AkzoNobel’s Marine Coatings Business, said.
According to RECOMMS, the drone inspections have in the longer term the potential to ensure “a systematic and consistent approach” to enclosed space inspection by crew, producing data readily available for shore-based staff, flag states and class societies.
The completion and launch of the drone are planned for October 2017.