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Unmanned Systems/Drones

Unmanned Drone Inspection & Imaging Services


Aerial drone T&D.jpg Tethered pipeline crawler.jpg Crawling drone entering pipeline.jpg

Whether they are in at-height or subsea locations MISTRAS offers unmanned inspection services for the assets and structures that can be hazardous for manned access.

MISTRAS provides unmanned inspections for assets in at-height, confined, and subsea locations in the oil & gas, petrochemical, manufacturing, power generation, and infrastructure industries.

Many assets in these industries — such as flare stacks, bridges, tanks, piping, and much more—aren’t always easily or safely accessible, and operational hazards can be expensive. At-height inspections and confined space entry (CSE) are often not an option, especially when it is critical that assets remain in service, a common requirement when production is a priority.

Using certified, professional pilots to operate drones, MISTRAS enables inspections on assets in hard-to-reach places, where damages often go unnoticed in between irregularly-scheduled inspections, potentially allowing them to worsen.

Unmanned inspections have proven to be a successful alternative to current methods of turnaround planning, infrastructure inspections, environmental monitoring, and disaster relief.

History of Unmanned System Inspection Excellence

MISTRAS has served as a leading pioneer in the use of unmanned systems to perform inspections in industrial environments, helping to introduce commercial UAS technology as a safe industry standard to inspect indoor and outdoor operating equipment, identify flaws and defects, provide aerial views of crises and catastrophes, and support the remediation and repair of key assets.

Staffed with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-certified pilots, certified API inspectors, and American Society for Nondestructive Testing (ASNT)-certified technicians, our member-company was the first company to receive airspace approval to conduct aerial unmanned inspections in the petrochemical industry. In 2015, before the FAA and Department of Transportation (DOT) endorsed the use of drones in commercial applications, MISTRAS was among the first in the industry to receive approval to fly UAS devices in the national airspace and beyond FAA jurisdiction. 

Aerial Drone Inspections for At-Height Assets

MISTRAS’ Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAVs) inspection services provide safe, accurate, and efficient aerial NDT inspection, mapping, and surveying services.

Our UAVs are equipped with non-destructive testing (NDT) inspection tools – including ultrasonic (UT), infrared (IR), and gas detection sensors – high-resolution video/imaging tools, and multispectral & hyperspectral cameras.

Drones can be used to inspect a huge range of at-height and confined space assets. Some common applications include:

MISTRAS often utilizes unmanned inspections to pre-qualify inspection and maintenance plans.

Before constructing scaffolding or deploying rope access technicians into at-height or otherwise dangerous locations, MISTRAS deploys drones for an initial assessment of the area in question, to more effectively determine the extent of damages.

Based on the result of this preliminary inspection, we work with facility operators to determine if more in-depth inspections must be conducted, along with the type of maintenance work that is needed.

Sample Aerial Drone Inspection Projects

MISTRAS utilizes aerial drones for a wide range of applications. Some of our previous projects are below.

Tank Farm Volumetric Mapping Survey

We surveyed 96 acres at two separate tank farm sites over a two-day period to collect data for a secondary containment-area volumetric analysis. After the aerial mapping was completed, post-production software combines the thousands of photos that were taken to create a three-dimensional point cloud.

The post-survey, computer-generated products provided our customer with the information necessary to determine if they were within EPA-compliance for containment, and allowed them to quickly identify and complete the necessary repairs.

Our UAV technology provided greater accuracy and was completed in much less time than traditional land-based survey techniques.

Floating Roof Tank Secondary Seal Gap Inspection

With our drones, we were able to inspect the tank roof’s general health, along with gaps, tears, or holes in the seal or seal fabric.

The remote inspection also eliminated the need to send a human to the top of the tank, along with any special permitting or at-height equipment (i.e. scaffolding or cranes) that may have been required. An inspection like this typically takes less than two hours, using only a small team.

Complete Assessment of At-Height Refinery Assets

Rather than just inspecting an individual asset, a refinery contracted MISTRAS to inspection nearly 30 at-height assets, ranging from steel and concrete furnace chimneys to flare stacks.

Many of the boiler and furnace stacks were over 300 feet tall, and all inspections were completed in only six days. This significantly reduced associated safety risks, process downtime, and hundreds of man hours.

Unmanned Inspections in Confined Spaces

Confined Space Entry (CSE) can be dangerous for technicians, so MISTRAS makes it a priority to avoid CSE whenever possible. One way to do that is by using drones to take internal inspections in confined spaces, reducing or eliminating the need to send in technicians.

Our fleet of land crawlers are equipped with a wide range of NDT tools for robotic confined space asset inspections, including in:

  • Abandoned/Unsafe Structures
  • Ballast Tanks
  • Boilers & HRSGs
  • Cargo Ship Holds
  • Piping
  • Sewers
  • Storage Tanks
  • Tank Cars
  • Vessels
  • Water Towers

Subsea Drone Inspections

Deploying remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs) in subsea locations reduces or altogether eliminates the need to deploy manned watercrafts or engage divers in hazardous confined spaces. This helps to reduce inspection preparation, costs, and safety risks, while still providing asset operators with real-time, high-quality imaging and video streaming.

MISTRAS offers submersible ROVs fitted with multiple NDT tools, sonar, lighting, and manipulator arms to inspect and assess:

  • Bridges
  • Dams
  • Docks
  • Maritime Areas
  • Reservoirs
  • Sub-Sea Canals
  • Subsea Piping/Pipelines
  • Sunken Structures

What's Next?

Take the next step by contacting our Unmanned System experts today.

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