In collaboration with The Department of Energy, UCORR, and AECOM, VersaTOL has validated it’s patent-pending drone-based method for inspecting the interior of industrial chimney stacks. The first two chimney flues were inspected at Oak Ridge National Laboratories in 2016 with a third to be inspected there in 2017. “For the second stack at Oak Ridge, we had a strict two hour window to inspect the entire inside and outside of the chimney before it had to go back on-line.” Said Lawrence Corban, a co-founder of VersaTOL UAS. “A chimney inspection like this would normally require a plant to shut down for at least a week, in some cases costing the power company upwards of $100,000 per day in lost revenue. With our drone-based solution, we were able to finish the inspection in less than an hour and a half.”
Of the two stacks inspected, the oldest was originally built during WW2 for the X-10 graphite reactor in support of the Manhattan Project (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-10_Graphite_Reactor). Both stacks were radioactive, but no contamination was detected on the drone equipment after completion.
Industrial chimneys are inspected regularly to insure their structural integrity. Often this requires a person to physically traverse the interior and exterior of a stack by repelling on ropes. Not only does this operation require the plant to shut-down, it poses a significant safety risk to the crew involved. UAV’s provide an obvious opportunity to improve both the efficiency and safety of this operation, but, until now, only for the exterior of a chimney. Robotically inspecting the interior of a stack presents a much more complex task, and has therefore limited UAV technologies disruptive potential in this particular vertical market.
For over 25 years, the team at VersaTOL has been developing advanced VTOL UAS technology and equipment for the US Department of Defense. As the FAA presses forward with integrating drones into the national airspace, VersaTOL’s mission is to make these advanced capabilities available commercially at a price that makes sense for businesses.