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Drones Take to the Skies in the Chemical Processing Industries

By Mary Page Bailey |

Drones are quickly entering the chemical processing space as more companies begin to embrace their use for inspection and monitoring tasks There is no doubt that drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), hold many promising opportunities for the chemical process industries (CPI), although, as with any new technology, some challenges may arise. “We’re just starting to see some of the larger chemical manufacturers begin to use drone technology,” says Bill Erny, senior director of security, regulatory and technical affairs at the American Chemistry Council (ACC; Washington, D.C.; www.americanchemistry.com). Equipment inspection, says Erny, is currently the most promising application for drones in the CPI. “Some equipment is challenging to access, such as flare stacks, large processing vessels and things of that nature,” he explains. Some drones can actually fly inside equipment structures and execute visual inspections, or even non-destructive testing (NDT), eliminating the need for confined-space entry. Although equipment inspection is currently the most commonly seen application for drones in CPI plants, several other tasks have emerged where their use might be beneficial, including emergency response, security management,…
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