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February 10, 2022

Factory Smokestack Interior Inspection

Factory Smokestack Interior Inspection
Factory Smokestack Interior Inspection


Photo of Dean Engela, CEO of Darkwing Aerials
Dean Engela
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Maintenance of industrial equipment is a never-ending requirement for large factories. The cost of annual maintenance programs can run very high if not managed carefully. It is especially critical for the factory management to clearly establish what equipment is truly in need of maintenance. This can be difficult in industrial areas where there are thousands of components and many in hard to access areas.

Darkwing Aerials was contracted by a large paper mill facility in Kwa-Zulu Natal to conduct a confined space inspection. There was a large smokestack where debris had accumulated on the inside surfaces during operation of the paper mill. The extend of the debris build-up had to be established to formulate a cleanup procedure.

Challenges present were the narrow diameter of the smokestack, the tall height of the stack and the danger posed to health by the build-up debris inside the stack. None of our standard size industry drones would fit inside the stack. It was also deemed to dangerous to risk one of our larger drones in such a difficult environment. We decided therefore to convert one of our smaller FPV drones into the perfect tool for conducting this experiment.

To protect the propellers from contacting with the stack’s walls we added a basket cage around the whole drone. We also mounted a 360 camera to the top of the drone to capture a full panoramic view of the smokestack’s interior. There were also several LED lights mounted around the drone to provide illumination inside the dark interior of the stack. With these modifications our pilot was able to manoeuvre the drone up and down the smokestack. Despite the difficult conditions our pilots thought on their feet and found creative solutions.

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