Drone inspections are nothing new, but Ford Motor Company is doing things differently than the rest. Drone flight is typically conducted outdoors where pilots have much more room to maneuver around structures taking various images. Employees at Ford instead are flying drones inside of their plant to keep workers safe.
The Yuneec Typhoon H520 used by Ford employees at their Dagenham Engine Plant in the UK is built for commercial use as it features long flight time (roughly 28 minutes) and a high-resolution camera for precise imagery. It also includes vision positioning sensors on the bottom of the aircraft to keep it stable when flying indoors. When wind is not a factor, drone flights typically go smoothly. The main purpose for using this drone is to inspect high-rise gantries, pipework, and roof areas.
40 meter long gantries used to support heavy equipment throughout the plant was once inspected by automated extendable platforms and scaffolding. This meant men had to physically go up there and check things out with their own eyes, putting their safety at risk.
Not only was this process dangerous, but it also consumed up to 12 hours to thoroughly cover the full inspection. Now, with the help of drones, each area only takes maintenance staff 12 minutes to inspect. According to Pat Manning, machining manager, Ford Dagenham Engine Plant:
“We’d joked about having a robot do the work when there was a lightbulb moment – use drones instead. We used to have to scale heights of up to 50 metres to do the necessary checks on the roof and machining areas. Now we can cover the entire plant in one day and without the risk of team members having to work at dangerous heights.”
Efficiency throughout the plant has boosted as inspections are done more frequently and don’t require machines to shut down during inspection time, keeping things moving per usual.
The use of drones across the board can save money and improve productivity in most fields. Current regulations restrict them in certain ways, but things at Ford seem to be going smoothly.
What do you think about drone use to expect machinery indoors? Let us know in the comments below.
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Photo credit: Ford