The Class Society DNV has performed production surveys in enclosed spaces using drones since 2016, demonstrating cost savings and increased personnel safety. The goal is to develop autonomous inspection drones to reduce the need to enter tanks and enable remote inspection. The vision is a drone that can fly by itself, track where it is, and spot rust and cracks, and measure steel thickness. We expect that drone-assisted remote inspection will reduce survey costs for the clients and be a major safety improvement for surveyors. Several drone capabilities are required to enable visual close-up inspection and non-destructive testing in enclosed, GPS-denied, and poorly lit environments. In this study, we report the most recent status from an ongoing research project, including several industry partners. We highlight technical challenges and preliminary results on drone navigation functionalities, computer vision for detection of cracks, and the use of hyperspectral imaging to detect and classify the chemical composition of coatings, rust, and other use cases.

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