The feature articles in create magazine often encourage further debate and discussion. Here is a recent submission we received from reader David Bell (managing director, DBC Group Australia) in regards to this article about structural audits with drones and rope access.
“I was very pleased to read the article about rope access and drones (create March 2018). Rope access for industrial inspection and maintenance is ubiquitous in heavy industry in Australia, with every state boasting many rope access inspection companies.
Those that specialise in industrial rope access as opposed to commercial rope access regularly work closely with engineers as part of the asset management strategies for heavy industry structures. The Australian rope access industry is hardly playing “catch-up” as stated in the article.
Australia boasts highly qualified and experienced rope access technicians many of whom work for certified member companies of the peak international trade association for rope access, Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA).
These companies undergo triennial independent audit of their rope access management systems. And like my company, DBC Group Australia, many are also accredited to ISO series standards for Safety, Quality and Environment and meet the stringent pre-qualification required by government departments, defence, and major companies.
As part of IRATA’s annual Work and Safety Analysis, Australia’s 29 member companies worked more than 1.37 million man hours in 2016. While IRATA is the peak body, there are also other associations and companies that work outside the association using skilled rope access technicians. These hours are not logged but would certainly double the man hours. Consequently, Australia’s 25 million population punches well above its weight in the rope access industry.
Personally, I started working in rope access in the North Sea in the 1990’s. Establishing DBC in Australia in 1998, we have pioneered the use of rope access trades in heavy industry. DBC have been completing NDT and visual inspections for 20 years.
The use of UAV/drone technology is a more recent integration with rope access and DBC has used drones on a number of occasions. To date they have proved less useful for inspection than other options such as rope access and deployed boroscopes, thermography and photography.
For access innovation, rather than drones we have frequently integrated rope access, balloons, tension netting and scaffold platforms especially designed by engineers to enable access and maintenance in otherwise inaccessible locations without the need for a traditional scaffolding approach.
Overall, we have found drones are not particularly useful for internal inspections as in this case the UAV technology is the one playing catch-up. They frequently crash when manuoevering inside a vessel. As a CASA certified operator there are also operational limitations due to 30 m exclusion zones from all people and some properties and restricted access near flight paths and airports.
Managing Director, DBC Group Australia
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