DNV GL has recently completed the first production surveys using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone. Speaking at the Posidonia exhibition in Athens, the Classification society revealed that the survey took place on the MV Apollo, a chemical tanker owned by Carl Büttner Shipmanagement, in Bremerhaven, Germany. Two DNV GL surveyors used the drone to inspect 14 tanks over a period of two and a half days.
“The advantage of using a drone over conventional staging inside the tank is absolutely clear,” said Jochen Huhn, marine superintendent and chief security officer, Carl Büttner Shipmanagement. “Eliminating the risk of damage to the coating from staging means the drone survey is worth it, even before we factor in the time saved by this method. We were also all very impressed by the details the drone was able to obtain in the inspection.
“By using drones, we can get a view from around 1.5m distance,” said DNV GL’s CEO for maritime Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, highlighting the class society’s investment in developing modern solutions. “Over the next few years we will continue to work on expanding the ways the drones can be used and the number of stations where we can offer this service. This is a very promising beginning and one that is already showing a significant benefit in terms of time and costs saved.”
In the future it may be possible to use drones that are fully autonomous. A 3D model of a vessel could be saved on the drone’s hardware, so that it can self-orientate inside the tank and follow a pre-defined route, stopping at points of interest inside the compartment to capture video and still images.
The operator could use the camera and lights to document findings, while the drone’s autopilot takes care of the flight. At some stage it may be possible to have a drone with its own scanning capabilities. The unit could be dropped into an unknown space, make a scan, create its own 3D map and then proceed to carry out the survey independently.