Every 4-5 years, grain bins are inspected in-depth to ensure they are working correctly and there isn't anything wrong. This means inspectors have to enter the bins by rappelling from the top and standing on temporary scaffolding.
Straight away, the big issue comes for the larger companies that need to do many of these inspections every year, resulting in lost time and lost profits.
Recently, one of these large companies began investigating new ways to inspect the large bins, with the Flyability Elios 2 being one of the options on the market.
If the test worked, the company would realize significant savings by reducing the downtime needed for inspections and removing the need for building scaffolding to support an inspector. It would also improve safety for inspectors by removing the need for them to physically enter grain bins in order to collect visual data.
To put the Elios 2 to the test, the company tested it out on two of its large grain bins. Here are the tasks that the drone was used for during the test:
- Assessing the amount of grain stuck to the walls and ladders
- Assessing the amount of unusable grain at the bottom of the pit
- Assessing the condition of the vertical hanging temperature cables
- Determining the overall condition of the grain bin
- Examining the base concrete and pit concrete structure
- Inspecting the roof feeding port
- Looking for corrosion and damage to the overall bin
- Looking for holes in the walls and roofs of the bin
The test flights were a success, with the Elios 2 helping the inspectors identify several defects and areas where work was required.
Despite a strong wind on the day of the test flights, which created challenging conditions for flying, the Elios 2 was able to collect all of the visual data required for a full visual inspection. The quality of the data was quite high, and sufficient to completely replace the need for an inspector to physically enter the grain bin for the additional collection of visual data.
For these grain bin inspections, the POIs [Points of Interest] taken in flight have almost more value than the video footage since they provide a high-quality overview of the condition of various parts of the bin. - Project Supervisor for the grain bin inspection tests.
Here are the steps taken to inspect one of the grain bins:
- Recon. Initial reconnaissance flight was made to assess flying conditions within the bin. In the North Bin, the recon flight identified potential threats to the drone, including temperature probes hanging on a string from the roof and tight the space between the walls of the tank and the roof, where the drone could get jammed.
- Full visual coverage. Following the recon flight, inspectors performed several flights focused on specific parts of the bin, including the edge between the bottom and the wall, the edge between the wall and the roof, and the roof (see the image below for the flight paths taken).
- Photogrammetry flights. Flights were also made to collect photogrammetric data within the bin, so that it could later be used to create a 3D map if the client desired.