Drones and chimneys or Ukrainian experience using Elios 2.

September 28, 2023
Дрони та димарі або український досвід використання Еlios 2.
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Last summer we already talked about the small Elios 2 drone from the DroneUA range and its enormous capabilities for industry. A month later, DTEK tested it during an inspection of the chimney and boiler at the Pridneprovskaya TPP. The drone was able to collect visual data much faster than a person could do, while putting their lives at risk. The operation of any thermal power plant requires regular inspection of boilers, chimneys and other very important, but also very dangerous to human life and health areas. For example, an undetected scratch on one of the boiler pipes can become a huge problem over time and delay the operation of the facility, leading to long-term damage.

Why inspect chimneys from the inside? Do gases damage chimneys? Yes it is possible. Firstly, they can be very hot - sometimes the temperature reaches 400°C. Secondly, gases can be chemically aggressive. For example, when burning coal, nitrogen and sulfur oxides are released. If a pipe is designed with errors or its operating conditions have changed, a “dew point” may appear in its trunk at a certain height and gaseous waste begins to condense. Aggressive condensate can turn into acids, subsequently destroying reinforcement, stone and brick.

The brick chimneys of the Prydneproskaya TPP reach 180 m in height and to inspect them it is necessary to resort to the help of industrial climbers with the appropriate equipment. To inspect the 45 m high boilers, scaffolding is installed in them so that inspectors can make a full visual inspection of the walls. The construction of these scaffolds requires 8 people who must work all day moving and installing approximately 8,000 kg of metal parts in the boiler.

Naturally, this inspection method is very difficult, time-consuming, economically unprofitable and life-threatening. In addition, the more time you have to spend finding and fixing a problem, the longer the downtime will be. This is especially true for boilers, which remain turned off for another two days after the end of the inspection in order to dismantle the installed scaffolding.
In addition, DTEK specialists believe that only 20% of the inspected facilities at their stations are in need of repair. That is why the company has long been looking for solutions that allow monitoring remotely.

The idea of using a drone to remotely collect visual data first came to DTEK employees about a year ago. But after conducting tests, they came to the conclusion that most drones cannot fly inside the boiler due to the lack of a GPS signal and the likelihood of falling in a confined space.

But then they learned about Elios 2 from Flyability and DroneUA, a drone created specifically for surveying such complex objects. Due to the impact-resistant frame, it can collide with obstacles in its path and continue flying undamaged. The supplier of this drone is Drone.UA.

In addition to GPS-free operation, the drone features stabilization, camera angles, and a powerful intelligent lighting system for detailed, high-quality images. Placing the light source diagonally away from the camera creates diffuse illumination, which creates ideal conditions for determining surface texture and revealing defects that are not always noticeable in direct light. Previously, this had to be done manually through more complex manipulations - rotating the flashlight in your hand at different angles.

Elios 2 was raised from the bottom of the chimney to the top, collecting data using conventional and thermal imaging cameras. Inspectors were surprised by the high quality of the images and visual data obtained and suggested that this inspection method could replace the need to send climbers to inspect the chimneys of DTEK power plants. They were also pleased with how quickly this drone was able to collect data - it only took half an hour for 3 missions.

After checking the chimney, the drone was sent to the boiler. In just an hour, Elios 2 was able to collect all the necessary visual data, while a traditional inspection would have taken a day.

The internal environment of the boiler needs a more thorough examination due to the presence of a large number of pipes. Damage to one of them can lead to a malfunction of the entire structure. One of the methods for detecting such defects is to supply water under low pressure through pipes. With Elios 2, the search for such leaks has accelerated significantly. Having received the results, DTEK specialists believe that from now on they can more often inspect problem areas and extend the service life of equipment and structures through timely detection of problems, and most importantly, take care of the safety of operating personnel.

Elios 2 continues to attract the attention of customers, and the cooperation between Drone.UA and DTEK promises to be interesting.

For reference:

DTEK is the largest energy holding company in Ukraine. DTEK enterprises mine coal and natural gas, produce electricity at thermal and renewable energy stations, supply heat and electricity to end consumers and provide energy services. The company employs 73 thousand people.

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DroneUA is an international system integrator of unmanned solutions and robotics.

On the market of Ukraine and Eastern Europe, the DroneUA group of companies is the largest importer and distributor of leading drone manufacturers in the world and represents technological solutions from the brands XAG, EcoFlow, Pix4D, Parrot, Chasing, DroneDeploy, AgroCares and others.

The group of companies has its own engineering, production and service divisions, as well as an open data processing center. Technological solutions presented by DroneUA are used on more than 4 million hectares of cultivated areas of Ukraine. According to the results of the 2021 and 2022 agricultural seasons, more than 2.2 million hectares were protected with drone sprayers from DroneUA.

DroneUA is among the top three most innovative businesses in the agricultural sector of Ukraine according to FORBES and among the twenty most innovative enterprises of Ukraine.

The group of companies continues to expand the list of technological brands that it presents on the Ukrainian market, and is active in agriculture, the oil and gas industry, as well as in the fields of energy, geodesy and topography.

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