Collision-Tolerant Drone Goes Where No Drone Has Gone Before

Industrial work is notoriously dangerous: human beings are constantly exposed to intense temperatures, toxic fumes, and heavy-duty machinery. Safety measures and equipment are in place to protect them from these hazards, but if something goes wrong within such environments, there can be major risks in correcting whatever the problem may be. Fortunately, the use of collision-tolerant drones may remove the human risk entirely.

A company based out of South Africa recently successfully tested the use of Elios, a drone that can truly go where men can’t. When an oil refinery in South Africa needed to be checked for maintenance, Elios was sent in to assess the situation. The durable robot entered a high-vacuum furnace (of which temperatures can reach a staggering 1,200 degrees Celsius) and provided visual access to its four chambers via live video feed.

In the past, people would be responsible for inspecting and identifying the problem; routine maintenance can quickly become hazardous to life and health when toxic chemicals and gases are involved. Now, there is a drone pilot who focuses on flying, while a separate worker views the video feed to examine any possible maintenance or safety issues.

Skyriders Access Specialists (Pty) Ltd., the company responsible for Elios, had previously focused on the use of rope access to inspect problems in industrial sites. With their new technology, they can send drones into increasingly dangerous and hard-to-reach spaces, such as those involved in power plants and chemical plants.

Many industrial businesses are seeing the benefits of multi-chambered vacuum furnaces. Depending on the work being performed, they can increase efficiency and boost production. For example, scrap metal furnaces melt used metals back down into a malleable form so they can be recycled and re-used elsewhere; however, each metal has a different melting point, so a single-chambered furnace would only be able to focus on one type of metal, whereas multiple chambers would increase production and remove this limitation. More chambers means repairs and maintenance would be more dangerous — and this is where drones like Elios could shine.

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