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February 10, 2022

Astron Refinery

Astron Refinery
Astron Refinery


Photo of Dean Engela, CEO of Darkwing Aerials
Dean Engela
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Fresh from our return to Cape Town after our wind turbine and solar plant inspections we mobilized to the Astron refinery. We were tasked with conducting an inspection of the internal surfaces of a massive oil tank.

The nature and location of the inspection presented our drone team with several challenges. The storage tank is completely covered by a metal roof. There is no natural light available inside the tank and all lighting is via spotlights. The metal roof also blocks all GPS signal and reduces the drone to manual flight control. Our drone crew also had to be wearing full PPE gear while operating in a confined space. 

All these factors combined to present our drone crew with a very challenging inspection. Every inch of the internal surface had to be photographed to detect rust spots and areas that must be painted. Our pilot had to always remain focused on the drone as there was no GPS assistance. The rest of the crew had to move the spotlights around the tank’s perimeter to follow the camera angle of the drone.

Despite the limited light conditions inside the tank, we were able to capture clear and high-definition images. This was thanks to the camera mounted on our M300 drone. We used our P1 camera which has a 45-megapixel sensor. It is excellent for use in low light conditions and gives the pilot more room to breath and focus on flying the drone.

We did two full rotations of the tank’s interior in both directions. All the flying inside the tank was done in less than thirty minutes. Despite the difficult conditions it was the right call to use a drone for this inspection. The speed of the drone ensured that the inspection team only had to spend minimal time inside the confined space. The image data provided by the P1 also gives unparalleled coverage of the tanks interior surface.

The use of drones in dangerous work environments reduces the risk for the inspection team. Darkwing Aerials champions the use of drones to create a safer work environment for all and reduce the overall costs for our clients.

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