Measuring the value of safety: How drones can make work in the nuclear industry safer | Commercial UAV News

2021-11-11 07:22:40 By : Ms. Linda cui

Security is generally considered to be one of the main advantages provided by drones in commercial scenarios. But what does it mean to measure or quantify these benefits in a way that makes sense for everyone?

After all, the effect of this security advantage is easy to understand. By using drones to fly to a height or enter a confined space, inspectors can see what’s going on there without having to go there in person-which means they are safer because they will not endanger their bodies to collect their Visual data is needed.

For example, for a signal tower inspector, this may mean finding a wasp nest and alerting maintenance personnel so that they know to proceed with caution. For nuclear power plant inspectors, this may mean flying to the irradiated area to look for cracks in the concrete so that they do not have to enter by themselves.

Inspectors mainly use drones for visual inspections. In this type of inspection, inspectors can visually inspect the condition of assets (such as boilers or cell phone towers) to look for signs of damage. These are by far the most common types of inspections performed with drones, and in general, at this point.

The new drones are also helping inspectors collect other types of data, helping to push the boundaries of how drones can help ensure the safety of inspectors. An example is Flyability's Elios 2 RAD, which is an indoor drone for carrying radiation sensors (or radiation detectors) designed for nuclear power plant inspections.

Elios 2 RAD can carry three different radiation sensors, enabling it to detect a certain range of radiation intensity. Without a drone like RAD, inspectors would have to enter the irradiated area and collect the data themselves.

"More than 80% of US nuclear operators have used Flyability's indoor drones for visual inspections," said Alexandre Meldem, vice president of sales at Flyability Inc.. farther. Using drones to collect these data remotely, nuclear personnel can avoid more potential exposure. "

Before we study the safety impact of new sensors on drones, let's take a step back and see how we measure the safety advantages of visual inspection, which is by far the most common use case for drone inspection.

Although we can easily conceptualize how drones can help people improve safety, we don't often see data supporting this idea.

So let's make things more specific. Here are some statistics that are particularly relevant to inspections performed inside large industrial assets such as boilers, pressure vessels or cargo holds:

All these activities-confined space entry, rope entry and scaffolding work-require internal inspections.

To perform these inspections, inspectors must climb through manholes or other narrow entrances into the confined space. Once inside, if the interior is large (it is usually the case, some boilers and water tanks reach heights of 100 feet or more in the air), they must stand on scaffolding or use ropes so that they can visually inspect the inside of the asset , Crawl around to ensure complete coverage of their visual inspection.

In all walks of life, caged indoor drones like Flyability's Elios 2 have been helping companies eliminate the need to expose inspectors to these hazards. Because the drone is protected by a cage and has collision resistance, it can fly into internal, hard-to-reach spaces and collect high-quality visual data that meets the standards required for many types of inspections.

If internal inspections account for half of the above statistics, we can say that using drones instead of personnel can avoid half of the casualties. This is only in the U.S.

(We should note that maintenance work-the work done to resolve the damage found by the inspector-still requires a person to enter the asset, but we may soon have robots to do this kind of work.)

Nuclear power plant inspections are a dramatic example of how drones can have a major impact on safety.

In the nuclear field, engineers and inspectors receive a certain amount of radiation every year. This is an accepted fact. Although it is impossible to completely eliminate this exposure, nuclear power plant operators must do all they can to reduce it. This is actually what they are forced to do, because reducing exposure is actually a legal requirement. It is contained in the acronym ALARA, which stands for as low as reasonably achievable.

According to ALARA, nuclear operators must take all reasonable measures to reduce the radiation exposure of their employees. Under ALARA, even reducing exposure for a few minutes is worth pursuing. This concept is why nuclear power plants are the first to adopt drones and other types of robots in their work-using new tools to reduce radiation exposure is not only attractive to nuclear operators, it is also something the law compels them to do.

This is part of the reason why more than 80% of US nuclear operators use Flyability's indoor drones for visual inspections. Drones make nuclear personnel safer because they allow them to maintain a distance between themselves and the area being inspected, which in turn reduces the time they spend in areas that may be exposed to radiation. But how do we measure the impact of drones on the safety of the nuclear industry?

By calculating the time that people do not have to be exposed to the potential radiation environment. The following are the results of recent inspections of nuclear containment buildings using drones instead of humans:

The 300-hour workload saves a lot of work. It is done by using drones to fly along the containment structure, collecting visual data and then reviewing by certified nuclear inspectors to complete the inspection.

The containment building is a huge structure. In order to visually inspect them, inspectors usually have to use scaffolding, ropes, and cranes to ensure that they are fully covered.

But none of these potentially dangerous strategies are necessary. Using various drones, including Flyability's Elios 2, inspectors are able to collect all the visual data needed to meet inspection requirements.

In addition to the safety advantages, all the time saved represents a huge potential savings for nuclear operators.

The time required to carry out the inspection and maintenance process is called turnaround time or downtime, which refers to the time during which the entire plant is closed for such work. Using drones for inspections can reduce turnaround time by 30%-90%, saving millions of dollars.

To give you an idea of ​​how much you can save, a typical nuclear reactor can generate the equivalent of approximately $2.3 million in energy per day. This means that it is no exaggeration to say that every additional minute of factory offline means lost revenue, and drones can save the company millions of dollars by shortening these time windows.

Radiation data from Elios 2 RAD can be used to help nuclear power plant administrators plan their own operations more accurately. By knowing exactly how much radiation is present in different locations, nuclear workers can fine-tune their work to further reduce exposure and push the boundaries of ALARA compliance.

Elios 2 RAD provides two main uses for nuclear power operators:

Elios 2 RAD can stream accurate radiation data in real time during flight, allowing nuclear power plant personnel to view the last-minute histogram of radiation measurements captured in flight. *

Inspectors can use Elios 2 RAD to:

After the flight, the inspectors can use the radiation data they collect to map the dose that exists in a given area.

These radiation patterns can be used to:

All this additional data directly translates into less radiation exposure for factory personnel, supporting ALARA's work by reducing the time people need to spend in the irradiated area.

As the adoption rate of drones grows, the potential for improving the safety of the nuclear industry is huge. The more types of data that inspectors can collect remotely, the more they can avoid exposing themselves to danger. This is a clear example of how well drones do in the world.

After all, security has nothing to do with indicators or statistics. This is to keep people away from harm so that they can go home at the end of the working day. This is something that both parties are committed to prioritizing and quantifying drone technology.

"Our core mission is to keep humans away from dangerous places," Melden said. "Every time drones help inspectors collect data remotely-whether it's visual data, radiation data, or something else that may be achieved by new technology. Data-it means that one does not have to put oneself in potential danger to collect it."

Zacc Dukowitz has been covering the drone industry since he started writing for drone instructors in 2016. He currently serves as Flyability's content marketing manager, writing case studies, articles, press releases, and in-depth guides on drone and NDT inspection methods, and leading Flyability's ongoing webinar work. Zacc continues to write articles for UAV Coach, reporting breaking news in the industry every week.

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