Materials Performance

MAY 2017

Materials Performance is the world's most widely circulated magazine dedicated to corrosion prevention and control. MP provides information about the latest corrosion control technologies and practical applications for every industry and environment.

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28 MAY 2017 MATERIALS PERFORMANCE NACE INTERNATIONAL: VOL. 56, NO. 5 C Continued on page 30 FEATURE ARTICLE Drone Interest Soars New Partnerships Aim to Expand Drone Use for Maritime Asset Maintenance and Coating Inspections Ben DuBose, MP Staff Writer Corrosion has long been a major challenge for ma- rine asset owners and operators, with corrosion un- der insulation (CUI) near the forefront of the list. The abundant moisture found near marine assets can of- ten become trapped around pieces of equipment and even within insulated material—leading to acceler- ated localized corrosion of the underlying metal sub- strate. Galvanic corrosion is widely considered the primary form of corrosion here. In recent years, the idea of using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—or drones—for surveillance opera- tions to help spot such problems has surged in popu- larity across many industries, led by oil and gas and others prone to the effects of corrosion. 1 Traditionally, these inspections have been carried out by human crew members, surveyors, or independent inspec- tors—a risky activity that represents one of the most common causes of work-related industry fatalities. That risk is often further heightened in marine and offshore environments. Besides the safety issue, these traditional practices may not always be completely effective. In the exam- ple of CUI, since removing all insulation material and examining the substrate underneath is cost prohibi- tive, the usual practice is to remove small portions of the insulation at select locations that could be at risk, and then use nondestructive testing (NDT) tech- niques on the surface to determine if there is metal loss. That practice, however, can sometimes spark a new problem by creating a potential entry point for moisture ingress. In addition, since CUI is localized, corrosion may not be found if the point where the insulation is removed is not covering the specific area where corrosion is occurring. Drones, however, have shown the potential to help the process in multiple ways. First, they can access difficult, hard-to-access environments, which reduces the safety risk for human inspectors. Second, by using remote thermal infrared (IR) and multispectral imag- ing sensors, they can detect anomalies that can be indicative of corrosion—even without removing the insulation or the existing coating. The concept of using drones for inspections is of particular interest to the maritime industry, since the marine environment presents numerous spaces that require either significant human risk or significant financial cost to access. However, as with many new technologies, challenges come with commercializa- tion, costs, and processes. To address those questions, a number of research and development (R&D) projects launched in recent months are aimed at facilitating a more widespread adoption of drone use to inspect for problems such as corrosion. These projects involve partnerships between industry, academia, and drone technology groups—all designed to develop new end-to-end pro- cesses to enable the frequent use of drones to perform inspections in maritime settings. Enclosed Spaces, Ballast Water Tanks One such collaboration announced earlier this year comprises global paints and coatings company AkzoNobel (Amsterdam, The Netherlands), oil and gas tanker operator Barrier Group (Wallsend, United Kingdom), and DroneOps (Morpeth, United King- dom). Given the code name RECOMMS (Remote Eval- uation of Coatings and Corrosion on Offshore Marine Structures and Ships), their project 2 aims to use the semiautonomous operation of a drone to assist with coating and corrosion checks. With a goal of boosting safety, project officials say their drone will use advanced virtual reality

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