Welding Inspection Drones

Welding is a critical hot-work process in shipbuilding.[1] Large ocean going vessels can contain hundreds of kilometers of weld lines, many in hard-to-reach interior and exterior places.[2]

Welds are inspected both during a ship’s construction and throughout the course of its lifetime, and involves human inspectors in hazardous situations using scaffolding, cherry-pickers, or even flooding the tanks or hulls to float the inspector to reach a weld.[2,3,4,5] Inspections of existing vessels require long periods of dry-docking and result in lost operational revenue, which can amount to more than €150.000 per inspection.[3]

Aerial drones could help reduce the costs associated with complicated welding inspections. Drones are increasing in applicability and are already used in offshore industries as a cost-effective alternative to conventional naked-eye inspections.[6] Equipping aerial drones with radiographic, ultrasonic, or other advanced technology to perform examinations is needed to make this opportunity happen.

When will it become accepted practice that drones are used to inspect welds on ships?

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References:
[1]Chakraborty, S., 2020, Common Welding Methods And Weld Defects In Shipbuilding Industry
[2]Amirafshari, P., Barltrop, N., Oterkus, S., Bharadwaj, U. & Wright, M., 2016, A Review of Nondestructive Examination Methods for New-Building Ships Undergoing Classification Society Survey
[3]EU Commission, 2019, Fully automated laser guided inspection robot for weld defect detection on ship hulls
[4]Applied Technical Services, 2020, Ship Hull Inspection
[5]Vessel Performance Optimisation, 2020, Optimising ship inspections with autonomous drones
[6]Simonsen, R., 2020, Inspektion med droneteknologi

By Matthew J. Spaniol