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Drones: essential tools for the industrial sector (and more)

In the industrial field, the moments of inspection and control are strategic for optimizing processes and increasing operational efficiency. Today drones, the remotely piloted aircraft that are emerging in various sectors: from the military to the leisure one, passing through industrial applications, are taking responsibility for this crucial task.

The advantages of UAVs

Drones or UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) offer important opportunities in production plants, thanks to the ability to return visual, radiometric, thermal and environmental data, useful for carrying out multiple operations. UAVs allow for continuous, accurate and real-time precision inspections and monitoring, even in dangerous or hard-to-reach environments.
The ability to analyze, combined with the almost unlimited visibility in aerial shots and the possibility of collecting various types of data, makes drones the perfect allies of Industry 4.0 in different areas, such as large industrial plants, mining, seaports and oil & gas.

Designing the flight mechanics

The challenge therefore shifts to the design of industrial drones, which must meet minimum requirements for flight time and payload.
Indeed, the overall weight of drones and the related sensors affects battery life and consequently the flight autonomy. To improve the flight characteristics, therefore, an attempt is made to increase the energy density of the batteries, somewhat like in electric cars.

Communication with the industrial control system

Industrial drones facilitate data exchange: the sensors mounted on them communicate directly with the main factory or utility network. This requires the secure transmission of two-way communication and the synchronization of the logical protocol. Furthermore, the connection of the drones to the internet makes them part of the cloud infrastructure. This integration involves the assignment of UAVs with application programming interfaces.

The Beyond-Visual-Line-Of-Sight system

The latest addition to the world of drones is the Beyond-Visual-Line-Of-Sight (BVLOS) mode, a system that allows you to control the flight beyond the pilot’s line of sight. Demonstrating the safety and efficiency of the BVLOS for UAVs in the industrial environment will facilitate overcoming not only the legislative impediments, but also the limited field of vision of the pilots.
This innovation allows:

  • power grid personnel to monitor cable lines over long corridors;
  • to carry out in-depth inspection for leakage detection and monitoring of interconnections, flanges and transverse systems in refineries;
  • to inspect the infrastructures in oil and gas plants, increasing their safety and facilitating a timely response to emergencies;
  • to map, survey and supervise ports and traffic;
  • to manage stocks and inspections in mines.

Prospects of success

Market analyses advance the success of drones in the near future, increasingly involved in industrial applications. According to MarketsandMarkets, the UAV market is expected to reach 58.4 billion dollars by 2026, compared to 27.4 billion in 2021, with a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 16.4% in the period considered.

Source: Controllo e Misura

Read also: Rental robots for the diffusion of automation
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