A Spanish Company Wants to Use Drones to Inspect Barcelona’s Drains

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The Spanish company FCC is pioneering a drone project to accelerate and improve the inspection of Barcelona’s sewer system, which spans 1,500 km.

Called ARSI, or Aerial Robot for Sewer Inspection, the drone comes equipped with multiple sensors designed to monitor air and water quality. To find its way through the sewer system, the drone uses a 2D laser to detect walls and calculate its flight paths. It also has a 3D camera to determine its position.

The drone is still in the prototype stage, but the project is being developed in coordination with Eurecat and in a consortium with other companies in the Echord++ (European Coordination Hub for Open Robotics Development) framework.

FCC believes drones can enhance productivity when performing a sewer camera inspection on lengthy sewers, like the one in Barcelona. Drones can move through the sewer system more quickly than a person walking and is a more practical option than conventional camera inspections.

Sewers can be difficult to maneuver on foot, and can sometimes be too dangerous for human inspection. Older sewer systems can be especially difficult because they are small and narrow, and they often vary in size. Surfaces can be slippery, and lighting can be poor. Drones can overcome these issues with ease without putting human lives at risk.

FCC’s drone project is just one of many applications being considered for unmanned aerial vehicles in the future. Municipalities may soon dispatch drones to check on something, drastically increasing responsiveness and service quality.

Along with sewer inspections, experts predict that drones will also be used to inspect bridges, telephone poles, roads and fresh water systems.

Drones equipped with sensor systems can provide continuous reporting of important information. These systems can allow for remote monitoring of city management.

A device that was once used for pleasure is now being used in industrial and commercial capacities. Industrial SkyWorks, for example, uses industrial drones to carry out oil and gas asset inspections as well as building inspections. Drones allow for safe inspections by eliminating the need for a human walk-through in potentially dangerous situations.

When inspecting oil and gas assets, drones can detect anomalies, like leaks and corrosion. Refinery and storage tank inspections are required on a regular basis. Drones can carry out these inspections across an entire tank farm in less than a day.

Another company, DroneDeploy, uses drones for both building inspections and insurance claim investigations. Maps are created to allow for better inspections and also include instant measurements.

Other companies are using drones for other types of inspections, including:

  • Gas pipelines
  • Critical infrastructures
  • Oil pipelines
  • Wind turbine and windmills
  • Cooling towers
  • Railway and train lines
  • Monuments
  • Bridges
  • Power lines and cables
  • Methane gas

These are just a few of the ways drones are now being used to improve the speed and efficiency of tasks once delegated to humans. New advancements and uses for drones will likely emerge in 2018. In future, specialized drones may help tackle new problems and free up the time of government workforces to focus on more important things.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.