Drone Inspection on Ships - Credit Bureau Veritas

Proving the value of remote inspection techniques

Jul. 2 2021 - 4 min

Remote surveys in the marine industry have become ever more common in the past few years. However, while remote inspection techniques (RIT) offer many benefits, their use in regular surveys is still limited by statutory and regulatory requirements. This means that the full extent of RIT use in surveys remains unexplored – and full of potential. 

To gain more insight into the possibilities and quality of RIT-based surveys, Bureau Veritas partnered with Glafcos Marine, a Greek technical services specialist, to perform an inspection for the scope of an intermediate survey. The ship chosen was a 13-year-old bulk carrier belonging to Greek shipping company Oceanbulk. The survey made use of an aerial drone, a miniature remotely operated vehicle (ROV), and magnetic crawlers to inspect the 50,000 DWT double-skin Supramax bulk carrier. 

Preparing for and carrying out the inspection 

Before the remote survey could begin, technology operator Glafcos Marine had to meet Bureau Veritas’ and IACS’ standards for RIT use. This meant undergoing a thorough audit to qualify their remote technology and techniques, which have been honed over more than a decade of experience with drone operation. 

Once the audit was completed, Oceanbulk’s vessel could be inspected. The ship was brought to the Neorion shipyard in Syros, and underwent a simulation of the required close-up inspections for a third intermediate survey. The underwater ROV was used to inspect the ballast tanks, which were left full, eliminating any need for de-ballasting and leading to notable energy savings. Likewise, a drone and magnetic crawlers examined the cargo holds, reducing the time and expense required to set up cherry pickers, staging or rope access. 

The magnetic crawlers were also equipped with ultrasonic thickness measurement (UTM) sensors. Moving across vertical and inverted planes, they provided the steadiness required for close-up pictures, videos and UTM readings. 

The results of the inspection were good, and the quality, resolution and detail of imagery obtained were excellent. All parties saw firsthand how these technologies can help with accuracy, speed and record-keeping, and have now experienced the benefits of combining different RIT during survey. 

Our takeaways from using RIT  

Shipping is currently going through a major digital transition, and Bureau Veritas is constantly searching for new ways of working to help support that change. Thanks to this milestone collaboration, Bureau Veritas surveyors and clients can lessen the challenges of data collection and increase their focus on data analysis. This can be done safely, efficiently, to high quality and at a lower cost to shipowners.