When a large petrochemical tank farm depot in Germiston was investigating alternative maintenance methods that are cost-effective as well as quick and flexible, it turned to leading rope access specialist Skyriders Access Specialists Pty Ltd. The two-phase project involved moving large plant and equipment off of these big storage tanks to facilitate access.
This was followed by deploying the Elios SkyEye drone, in addition to the new Zenith vertical inspection solution from the US, in order to inspect the internal structure of the tanks. “It was quite a unique project,” comments Skyriders Marketing Manager Mike Zinn.
Developed by Interactive Aerial based out of Traverse City in Michigan in the US, Zenith is a simple-to-use, interactive, remote drop camera system that allows users to survey 150 m of vertical space, negating the need for costly downtime, human entry and the many related health and safety issues. The system provides fully automated inspections of even the hardest-to-reach vertical asset.
“We became aware of a case study from the US where this system had been used successfully on a petchem tank project,” explains Zinn. He immediately saw the technology as being highly complementary to Skyriders’ own drone service, allowing it to provide a holistic inspection service. “The combination of Elios SkyEye and Zenith definitely closes any gaps that either system may have, opening up many other opportunities for us.”
The Zenith system is ideal for mine shafts, silos, elevator shafts, towers, smokestacks and even sewer systems. It was conceptualised and patented in 2019, with final testing completed only in 2020. “Basically, it is a drone that is lowered and controlled very carefully on a vertical cable in order to be able to take pictures,” adds Zinn.
“While our Elios SkyEye drones are ideal for complex spaces, precision repeatability can be limited. This is where the Zenith system comes into its own, as it can save set parameters in order to be able to repeat certain manoeuvres and take numerous identical pictures for comparative analysis,” highlights Zinn.
Skyriders has been collaborating with this particular petchem producer since 2013 on its maintenance requirements, with a spotless record to date. The longstanding relationship has not only stood the test of time, but gave the client the confidence to implement the latest technology in order to cut costs and increase safety.