In a first for Southern Africa and possibly the whole of Africa, rope access specialists Skyriders has used Zenith – a new confined-space inspection camera system – at a petrochemicals plant in Gauteng for inspection.

The Zenith system is manufactured by US-based inspection technology developer Interactive Aerial and was rented to Skyriders by industrial equipment supplier GammaTec NDT Supplies in June this year.

Skyriders marketing manager Mike Zinn tells Engineering News that the Zenith system was used in conjunction with its Elios SkyEye drone, owing to its ability to take precise photos or videos in high resolution within set parameters at the same site over different periods.

The 18 megapixel still camera and 4K video recording capability camera also offer 30 times optical zoom.

The Zenith system can be programmed to capture photo or video information at various intervals, angles and depths.

The captured information is then compiled into a report for the client, and the parameters used are saved for the next site inspection.

“Being able to have images or videos taken at exactly the same angle or position better shows any degradation or wear and tear that might be occurring at the site,” he adds.

Zinn explains that the camera is secured to a static steel cable, which is anchored at the top of the site on a tripod system.

An extension arm affixed to the tripod allows for easy and direct access to the entry point of the site being inspected.

“We used the Zenith system in conjunction with our Elios SkyEye Drone not only because of the consistent results it can offer but also the time and money saved by not using dated inspection methods,” he enthuses.

Normally, scaffolding would have to be built before inspectors, third-party assessors or maintenance teams could access the structure to physically do any assessments or maintenance.

Zinn explains that using the drone for the inspection and then the rope access teams for the maintenance scope saved the client considerable cost as well as shortened the duration of the scope.

Additional Project Scope

Zinn points out that the project entailed not only the inspection within the petrochemical tanks but also the removal of elements at the summit of the tanks, which needed to be removed for maintenance and repair.

“When an object removed at height exceeds a certain weight, it may not be removed in person by way of the stairs on the tank,” he stresses.

For this purpose, a crane and operator are required, as well as strapping to safely move the heavy objects to the ground, which are then loaded onto a truck ready to take the object to a repair site.

Zinn says four rope access specialists did “exactly the same job in a fraction of the time at even less cost” than that of a crane and crew

Two pilots and one supervisor conducted the drone inspection over a four-day period.

It is the first time that this particular division of the petrochemicals company has used Skyriders and Zinn hopes that the speed and efficacy with which the project was completed has opened the door to future business with the client.