Toshiba Corporation and Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions Corporation (ESS), companies dedicated to providing industry with solutions that raise operational efficiency and productivity, have developed a drone-based inspection technology for complex industrial facilities, such as power plants, oil refineries and chemical manufactures.
The new solution comprises 3D laser measurement technology, a drone-mounted video camera, optimised flight route creation technology for the drone, and image recognition technology to identify the condition of plant structures and check for signs of fatigue and deterioration. The process ends the need for people to carry out perilous inspections in dangerous places, and Toshiba and ESS are currently refining the technology to application level through verification testing in Japan.
Many of Japan’s plants and facilities were built during the period of high economic growth. After some 50 years of operation, they are increasingly in need of inspections that can identify problems and be used to plan measures to deal with structural deterioration, corrosion in pipes, and other results of aging.
Other problems include the difficulty of securing sufficient number of qualified people to carry out inspections, and ensuring their safety and efficient deployment; this is made all the more pressing by a shortage of younger workers and the aging of the current generation of inspectors. Toshiba Group aims to realise efficient use of personnel and secures safety by using drones for plant facility inspections.
The first step is to use 3D laser measurement technology developed by Toshiba Plant Systems & Services Corporation. The technology measures and maps the entire facility, and reproduces it in 3D in cyberspace. Toshiba’s production simulation technologies are then applied to the facility to create an optimised inspection flight route for the drone.
The drone flies the route autonomously and videos the facility. The images of the physical space are then accurately mapped onto the 3D image in cyberspace. The next step is to use image analysis technology developed by Toshiba to detect and identify degraded locations. Periodic inspections can track structural changes over time, and be used to estimate future deterioration.
Toshiba and ESS tested the system on a boiler facility, including sections that are temporarily out of service, at Mikawa Power Plant in Omuta, Fukuoka prefecture, which is operated by Sigma Power Ariake Corporation, a subsidiary of ESS. The system successfully verified the whole process, including 3D reproduction of the facility, and detected deterioration, such as rust on the structure.
On November 7-8, Toshiba and ESS will introduce the technology at Open Innovation Fair 2019, which Toshiba Digital Solutions Corporation will hold at the Grand Nikko Tokyo Daiba, in Tokyo, Japan. Toshiba Group will promote the solution through presentations at events and individual proposals, to find partners interested in cooperating in running verification tests. It will also continue to verify additional functions to meet particular needs through proof of concept testing.
Toshiba Group aims to become one of the world’s leading cyber-physical systems technology companies by combining knowledge and capabilities accumulated over years of experience in a wide range of businesses, from infrastructure to electronic devices, with its strengths in information processing digital and AI technologies. It will contribute to resolution of social problems with the Group’s cyber and physical technologies.
Overview of the drone-based inspection service