Ford employees are now using cameras mounted on drones to efficiently inspect high-rise gantries, pipework and roof areas at the company’s Dagenham Engine Plant in the UK.
Previously, the team carried out this maintenance work using automated extendable platforms and scaffolding to check 40m-long (130ft) gantries that support the plant’s heavy machinery. Each inspection area would take 12 hours to complete.
Now, maintenance staff are able to inspect each area in just 12 minutes, meaning the whole production facility can be covered in a day, zoning in on hard-to-reach areas to ensure they comply to safety standards.
“We’d joked about having a robot do the work when there was a lightbulb moment – use drones instead,” said Pat Manning, machining manager, Ford Dagenham Engine Plant. “We used to have to scale heights of up to 50m (150ft) to do the necessary checks on the roof and machining areas. Now we can cover the entire plant in one day and without the risk of team members having to work at dangerous heights.”
With the time saved, the team at Dagenham can carry out more frequent inspections, without having to shut facilities to construct the scaffolding that was once necessary.
Ford’s drones are also set to work inspecting pipework, locating air leaks and checking machinery. The company is evaluating the possibility of using the technology in other regions.