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Rope access, drone combo deployed at Limpopo coal-fired power station inspection

14 May 2021

A combination of rope access and drone technology allowed for a maintenance inspection at a coal-fired power station in Limpopo to be undertaken in record time, reports Skyriders Marketing Manager Mike Zinn. “This was another great example of the synergy between traditional rope access and our Elios SkyEye drones,” comments Zinn.

A two-person rope-access team and a three-person drone team, the latter consisting of a pilot, a back-up pilot and an inspection manager, were dispatched to site in November last year to carry out an inspection of the back-pass ducting in Unit 4 of the power station. The back-pass ducting conveys the hot exhaust gases and fly ash to the precip hoppers and ultimately to the smokestack.

The inspection was carried out quickly within a day, as opposed to the time-consuming and potentially dangerous traditional approach of erecting scaffolding in this 6 m by 6 m and 45 m high space in order to gain access to the ducting.

Thereafter a report detailing the findings was compiled, which identified two areas that required a follow-up inspection. Another team was dispatched to conduct ultrasonic (UT) wall thickness readings, which ultimately revealed that the areas of concern were indeed safe and had experienced no degradation due to normal wear and tear. If that had been the case, the team would have carried out the necessary welding repairs using rope access.

Time constraints are a major challenge when dealing with any kind of inspection or maintenance work at Eskom’s power station fleet. The tight schedules means that such work has to be completed as quickly as possible. This is why the particular combination of rope access and drones that Skyriders can offer is an ideal solution that is also safe and cost-effective, concludes Zinn.

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