Industrial chimneys are regularly inspected to ensure their structural integrity. Often this requires a person to physically traverse the interior and exterior of a stack by repelling on ropes. Not only does this operation require a scheduled shutdown to complete, but it also poses a significant safety risk to the crew involved. UAV’s provide an obvious opportunity to improve both the efficiency and safety of this operation, but, until now, only for the exterior of a chimney. Robotically inspecting the interior of a stack presents a much more complex task, and has therefore limited UAV technologies disruptive potential in this particular vertical market.
In collaboration with The Department of Energy, UCORR, and AECOM, VersaTOL (versatol.com) has validated it’s patent-pending drone-based method for inspecting the interior of industrial chimney stacks. The first two chimney flues were inspected at Oak Ridge National Laboratories in 2016 with a third to be inspected there in 2017. “For the second stack at Oak Ridge, we had a strict two-hour window to inspect the entire inside and outside of the chimney before it had to go back on-line.” Said Lawrence Corban, a co-founder of VersaTOL UAS. “An inspection like this would usually require days of shut down; our drone-based solution enabled us to finish in less than an hour and a half.”