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The new UTM payload on the Elios 3 is available for demonstrations and purchase with first deliveries expected in Q3 2024. (Image source: Flyability)

Flyability, a provider and market-leader in confined-space drones, has partnered with Cygnus Instruments, a leader in ultrasonic testing (UT) technology, to further improve its flagship Elios 3 drone 

This enhancement takes the form of a new ultrasonic thickness measurement (UTM) payload which has been designed for spot thickness measurements of steel in ship hulls, inside tanks and between pipe ranks, and other applications. As UT is critical to many inspection processes, the new payload has been included to deliver a safer means of accessing thickness measurement locations (TMLs).

“Since our first projects with our oil and gas, maritime, and chemical industry customers, the ability to perform UTM in addition to visual inspections has been one of the most requested features,” remarked Patrick Thévoz, CEO and co-founder of Flyability. “The complexity of this challenge involved four years of product development and research that was contingent on the Elios 3's unique design. Now we can offer a reliable, safe, and effective UTM alternative for places unreachable with scaffolding, crawlers, or cherry pickers.”

The ultrasonic probe is mounted on a smart arm which boasts a laser pointer to provide visual guidance for precise targeting alongside mounting and shaping options to adapt to the complexity of industrial settings. Further, a remotely-operated couplant dispenser has been included to ensure optimal ultrasound transmission to the material under test and each measurement can be location-tagged on a digital twin of the asset. The Elios 3 is also capable of carrying a cleaning module to prepare test surfaces for measurement.

According to Lulu Crosthwaite-Eyre, managing director of Cygnus Instruments, the call for aerial drone-based inspection within the shipping and oil and gas markets began around 20 years ago but few credible solutions were put forward to satisfy this demand. “Over the last 10 years, Cygnus has observed this turn into a technology race to mount UT onto UAVs,” Crosthwaite-Eyre said. “Now we are privileged to collaborate on the ultrasonic thickness measurement payload for the Elios 3, where Flyability combines a wealth of engineering talent, extensive field testing, and rigorous product validation. The partnership’s contribution to safer NDT inspection, across many industries, comes at an important time.”

Dealing with challenging inspection environments

The two companies stated that the working partnership between them has now resulted in a unique product, tailored for challenging inspection environments.

Further describing the assets of the solution, the companies’ statement noted that software integration with the Elios 3’s piloting app, Cockpit, allows for real-time visualisation of the live A-scan and manual adjustment of the gain and gates. Furthermore, a choice of twin crystal piezo-electric composite transducers supporting through-coating echo-echo measurement mode is available.

The new UTM payload, which has been delivered to meet the highest standards of accuracy, quality and reliability in thickness gauging, is now available for demonstrations. Customers can purchase the product and can expect first deliveries in Q3 2024.