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Drones technology is a fast emerging market sector.

Three firms to jointly develop drone capable of ballast water tank inspections

A trio of companies, AkzoNobel, DroneOps and Barrier Group, have teamed up to develop a drone capable of remotely inspecting ballast water tanks and offshore wind farms. 

The project – codenamed Recomms (Remote Evaluation of Coatings and Corrosion on Offshore Marine Structures and Ships) – will use virtual reality technology and the semi-autonomous operation of a drone.

If successful, the new drones could deliver safer, more accurate evaluations of ballast water tanks and other enclosed or difficult to access spaces on vessels and offshore structures, including inspections of coatings and corrosion.

Traditionally, these inspections are carried out by crew, surveyors or independent inspectors; such inspections are a risky activity that represent one of the most common causes of work-related fatalities in the industry.

The new method will allow maintenance to be remotely monitored, with pictures and data available to staff in real-time.

The drone is scheduled to undergo flight trials at AkzoNobel’s UK-based coating test block, and Barrier Group’s indoor training facility, with the drone’s launch planned for October 2017.

“Using the expertise and experience of our partners and supporters, Recomms aims to utilise the rapid development of drone and autonomous technologies to make remote inspections of ballast water tanks and other enclosed spaces possible,” said Michael Hindmarsh, spokesperson for Recomms and business development manager at AkzoNobel’s Marine Coatings Business.   

“This in turn will reduce costs, increase efficiency and most importantly, significantly reduce risk to human life during essential maintenance.”

Drones and autonomous technology are predicted to become increasingly important for offshore and marine operations, particularly because of their ability to remove staff from hazardous or dangerous sites and jobs.

A raft of drone announcements were made in 2016, with companies keen to stake a claim in what could potentially be a lucrative market.

Just over two months ago, Robotica in Maintenance Strategies launched a drone inspection for the maritime and offshore industries designed to reduce dangers in enclosed spaces.

In September last year, Lloyds Register signed a MoU with drone company Airobotics to help further develop its use of remote access technologies as part of its Remote Presence Technology Programme.

And in March 2016, Rolls Royce outlined its vision of a land-based control centre for unmanned ships, including the use of shipboard drones. 

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