Skyriders brings hi-tech drone to South Africa

The latest inspection technology for indoor and confined spaces has been introduced to South Africa by Skyriders, which has acquired an Elios collision-tolerant drone from Flyability of Switzerland.

The Elios drone includes a high-definition camera, a thermal camera, and an onboard LED lighting system with remotely-adjustable intensity. In addition, the drone is dust and splash resistant, and can operate in environments from 0°C and 50°C.

The rope-access company has already deployed drone technology specifically for visual inspection purposes in indoor environments, like the large coal-fired boilers and ducting at Eskom.

The problem with using traditional drones is that they tend to lose their GPS tracking and stability when used indoors, which means that exceptional piloting skills are required.

Mike Zinn, Skyriders marketing manager, says that the Skyriders pilot went to Switzerland in September 2017 for extensive training in terms of the European process and Elios procedures, and now has all the necessary documentation in place for the Elios drone to be operated locally.

Zinn says: “The drone is already in use at a major petrochemical company in Mpumalanga. They were extremely impressed, as this now means they have access to parts of their plants not accessible to visual inspection before, as either visibility was too poor, or it was too costly to do so.

“The fact that it is collision-tolerant means now not only can we only enter furnace areas, but can go right up to a burner, for example. It opens up huge possibilities for us. With certain limitations, the Elios drone can even be flown ‘blind’,” he explains.

This means a repeater can be placed in a boiler, for example, whereupon the drone can be flown in from the outside. A sufficiently experienced pilot can fly around without having to enter the structure at all.

By enabling remote visual inspection in any indoor environment, the Elios drone means that technicians no longer have to enter hazardous areas themselves. The other benefit is the speed with which a visual inspection can be carried out, slashing the time required from days to mere hours.

A cutting-edge wireless communications system with a live video feedback means that the drone can be brought into usually inaccessible places, up to many hundred metres beyond the line of sight.

Skyriders has also sub-contracted its Elios Drone team out to various third-party inspection companies to assist them with inspection work.

Zinn says that Skyriders is in the process of training additional pilots, and ordering a second Elios drone in order to allow it to expand its remote visual-inspection capability. “The new Elios drone sets a new benchmark in inspection technology in South Africa,” he concludes.

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