Why real-time visibility is the next big thing for unmanned survey projects

– James Arnott, Business Development Manager, TEXO Survey & Inspection (DSI)

Increasing pressure from public health, cost efficiency and safety concerns are playing a big role in the shift to real-time video for survey and inspection.

Precision survey data is critical to projects of all types. From sea defences and oil and gas platforms to drainage tunnels and listed building maintenance, surveyors, inspectors and planners need to be able to see objects in detail so they can make accurate and informed decisions about what happens next.

Unmanned airborne vehicle (UAV) surveys have already made their mark in this space. Removing people from potentially dangerous survey areas, UAVs collect accurate data and images quickly and efficiently, and work alongside traditional survey methods such as LiDAR to provide a complete picture. Supported by sophisticated software that renders the data in whatever way is best for the client – including interrogable 3D images – this method of surveying is becoming the standard approach for many industrial, environmental and heritage projects.

The bonus of streaming technology

The next obvious step for state-of-the-art surveying is to produce a real-time video stream so that people who can’t get to the site can see exactly what’s happening. This type of livestreaming is becoming more common, and brings a number of benefits, which we look at below. The key for UAV pilots is to integrate real-time streaming with standard survey equipment to ensure that the ability to collect precise data is maintained while sending good quality images back to the client that are useful in the context of the survey.

The benefits of live streaming technology

Making use of real-time streaming technology brings a number of measurable project benefits:

Reduced presence on-site – with image streaming available, clients do not need to send as many people to site when a survey is taking place. This saves time and also contributes to a healthier environment, as people are not travelling.

Improved health and safety – UAV surveys already improve health and safety on site. Adding a real-time streaming option means that surveyors and project managers can see images of the parts of sites that are difficult or dangerous to access and significantly reduces the potential for on-site incidents.

Greater project efficiency – seeing issues in real-time makes for a significantly more efficient project. Decisions can be made faster, surveys can expand immediately to include new areas of concern or to focus on particular areas, and it reduces the requirement to go back out on site for future inspections.

Better inspection procedures – for sites that need regular inspection, real-time image streaming means that inspections are more accurate, faster and more cost-efficient. It streamlines processes, allows key personnel to see inspection images immediately and allows more accurate and useful maintenance and repair plans to be built.

Training – this technology offers a fantastic opportunity to train new staff. There are times, of course, when being on site is beneficial, but in terms of understanding the survey and inspection process, learning what to look out for and how to diagnose and approach particular problems, having access to live video images is an incredibly useful training and learning tool.

Remote worker protection – this is a critical health and safety responsibility for companies of all types. With accurate GPS built into the system, live streaming equipment allows you to make sure your lone workers are safe when they are working in remote or hazardous areas. Most importantly, you will be able to see immediately if your worker is injured or has any issues, allowing you to alert emergency services faster.

Livestream in action: Emergency Inspection of bridge and buildings post storm

TEXO TEXO Survey & Inspection (DSI) was commissioned to mobilise within 24 hours to a farm bridge near Hull. The bridge and an adjacent house had suffered from erosion and other damages during a rise in river levels – the bridge was under risk of collapse and the house was also in danger.

We delivered:

– Emergency inspection and streaming
– LiDAR survey
– 3D structural scanning
– Photogrammetry
– Orthomosaic

The key for the client was being able to instantly view structure and provide feedback to the site team. This enabled decisions on the course of action to be discussed by multiple parties within the client organisation and stakeholders that were not able to get to site, meaning the client could maximise their internal resources. We delivered the full scope of the project in just one day.

What to expect from live streaming in industrial projects

With proven technology in place, we expect project managers to add real-time images as a requirement when they ask for survey and inspection support. The built-in time, cost, efficiency and safety benefits, alongside the ability to make faster, more informed decisions, means that this will become a standard part of client tenders in the very near future.

Delivering a wider range of information and able to stream across continents, the best technology will become a ‘must’ across all sectors – we are already seeing increased demand from the sectors we regularly service, plus additional industries that can see the immediate benefits of real-time streaming.

When looking for a survey or inspection team that offers real-time streaming, it’s important to select teams that have experience in integrating live streaming to their UAV or traditional survey methods. Integration is important – it’s far more difficult to hire a survey team and a separate live streaming team – so you want to look for partners that understand how to use the technology to your best advantage.

As demand increases, providers will begin to look at live streaming technology and begin to get up to speed on how to deliver the best package. TEXO Survey & Inspection already uses TEXO Livestream technology within its survey options – and works closely with the Livestream team to innovate and build on our successes to deliver quality images, data and commercial benefits to clients.

To find out more about how we can deliver a full survey and real-time image service to your project, contact us today: info@texo.co.uk


Phased Array Ultrasonic Testing (PAUT)

Phased Array Ultrasonic Testing is an advanced method of ultrasonic testing used in industrial non-destructive testing. Phased Array probes are made up of several piezoelectric crystals that transmit and receive pulses individually. These multi-element probes can be fired independently of each other and if carried out in sequence, the interference between each element can cause the beam to bend. By controlling the timing between each set of firings, the angle of the beam can be manipulated continuously producing a beam which can swing through a section of material. This means that from a single position, a whole volume of material can be examined with only the beam moving and not the probe.

Difference Between PAUT Conventional Ultrasonic Testing

A conventional ultrasonic probe consists of a single piezoelectric element, whereas a Phased Array probe has multiple piezoelectric elements contained within the probe. Each piezoelectric element is independently controlled through the electronic timing of the pulses, to synthesize these individual wavelets so they can then be directed and steered, to control the resulting ultrasonic soundwave beam. Phased Array method makes it possible to change the angle of incidence and the position of focusing of the ultrasonic beam for a single probe, rather than having to use multiple probes for conventional ultrasonics for a specific application.

Figure 1. beam paths for conventional UT and Phased Array


Advantages of Phased Array

PAUT has many advantages over single element conventional ultrasonic probes. The probes are easier to operate and more efficient, as their multi-elements can capture hundreds of signals at once – providing more flexibility and real-time imaging capabilities. Flaw detection can also be increased when used in conjunction with simulation, whilst also improving data recording and traceability. These results from the simulation can be compared to the inspection data, to provide confirmation of potential defects and reduces the number of false calls. As mentioned previously, due to the ability to adjust the focal point of the ultrasonic beam, inspection speeds are greatly increased, maximising the capabilities of each inspection. Additionally, depth focusing enables measurements to be carried out at various depths faster, providing more efficient and reliable results, compared to that of a conventional probe.

Application of Phased Array

Phased Arrays can perform a range of inspection and measurement applications in industrial Non-Destructive Testing. Common applications are to detect flaws in welds, voids, and corrosion, in addition to inspecting interfaces and joints, measuring material and coating thickness, and identifying changes in material properties.

What TEXO can offer

Bolt Inspection

Bolted connections are critical components associated with cranes, bridges, vessel flanges and other onshore and offshore structures. In-service factors such as thermal stress, external loads, and vibration (where bolts are subjected to viable stresses, separation, or distortion), can lead to cracks and corrosion. If not monitored periodically, this might result in failure and disastrous damage.

Common methods of inspecting bolts are visual inspection, followed by fluorescent Magnetic Particle Inspection (MPI) or Dye Penetrant Inspection (DPI). However, this is not cost affective as the bolts have to be removed individually leading to potential long periods of downtime. Conventional Ultrasonic Testing is also used, although results are operator dependent, and interpretation of results are difficult due to signal reflection for the bolt threads and geometry where mode convention occurs.

Phased Array inspection can be performed in-situ, without removing the bolts, therefore considerably reducing downtime and costs. The Probability of Detection (POD) is considerably higher with PAUT, compared to conventional UT, with data recording allowing for further review and analyse.

Weld Inspection

PAUT reduces inspection time by covering multiple angle inspection data from a single scan pass, from either side of a weld. By constructing accurate scan plans for specific weld configurations, defects are detected, characterised, and sized accordingly. The software analysis allows welds to be scanned from multiple directions optimising inspection.

Weld applications include:

  • Complexed bevel welds
  • Fusion faces
  • Pipe to pipe and pipe to fitted joints
  • T-joints

 Corrosion Mapping

Due to the high sensitivity of Phased Array beams, this enables the detection of reflected and diffracted signals, enhancing defect characterisation. Screen displays allows for interpretation of rapid scanned data that can identify sub-surface damage and material losses.

Accurate defect locations can be recorded and monitored for future repair, reducing shutdowns or prolonged maintenance periods. The mapping data software can identify the position corrosion or pit. It displays the average thickness and minimum thickness against the material thickness threshold, and the proportion of this area of corrosion can be viewed through either A-scan, S-scan, or C-scans.

Flange Face Inspection

This technique is used to detect crevice corrosion around the sealed surface of flanges found on pipes, vessels, or other components. When exposed to corrosive fluids and challenging environments, damage can occur over time, leading to potential failure. The neck and body of the material can also be measured for any material losses. PAUT can inspect in-service flanges without having to strip them apart and reduce inspection time and costs.

If you think your business could benefit from our expertise, please contact us to find out more: Info@texo.co.uk


Figure 1. (Olympus.com) https://www.olympus-ims.com/en/ndt-tutorials/intro/advantages/