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Zenith: The Next Generation of Sphere Tank Inspection

It seems only yesterday that drone technology brought the ultimate in asset inspection. The advantages were many, from cost reduction to health and safety, not to mention the speed in which inspection tasks could be carried out.

However, when it comes to inspecting indoor spaces, such as sphere tanks, drones have yet to overcome some significant hurdles. Enter Zenith—a drone alternative created specifically with these difficulties in mind.

The Key Challenges of Sphere Tank and Indoor Asset Inspection

There’s no denying that drones have multiple benefits. The ability to carry out a remote inspection of assets with a hazardous or non-oxygen atmosphere is a major advantage.

Other reasons to use inspection drones include:

  • Removes the requirement for human entry and the associated risks
  • Zero need to erect scaffolding
  • Reduced asset downtime
  • Fast, accurate inspection
  • Lowered insurance polices

However, the need for GPS and compass navigation makes drones less than perfect when in an enclosed area. The challenges that have yet to be overcome are:

  • Reliable, low-cost, automated flight navigation drone technology within a confined space doesn’t yet exist
  • Drones have specific weight limitations
  • A short battery life—typically operating for no more than 20 minutes
  • The need for a “retrieval plan”, in the case of a drone falling out due to a malfunction or battery failure.  Human intervention is then needed to retrieve the hardware
  • The operator needs to be a licensed FAA drone operator, with training updated every two years

Zenith: The Sphere Tank Inspection Solution Created With Engineers & Inspectors in Mind

Zenith is a cutting-edge, automated inspection tool specifically designed to overcome the issues of using drones to inspect an indoor space. The main reasons to switch to Zenith are:

  • Fully-automated technology: Achieved by the use of a military-grade Inertial Measurement Unit and Hall-Effect depth sensors, all that’s needed is to input of the asset dimensions for totally automated inspection. In addition, Zenith captures 100% photographic coverage (with no human intervention), allowing for the creation of 3D photogrammetry models (utilizing a third-party software). A software upgrade is already in the making for a “go back” feature, whereby any defect locations will be retained within the data, allowing it to return to the exact spot in subsequent inspections.
  • No FAA licensing needed: In contrast to a drone, there’s no need for any pilot or in-person training before use. Zenith is simple to use, meaning a traditional asset inspector can, following a short 30-minute online training video, comfortably use the technology. Simplicity has been built in, with automatic pairing for all electronic devices and a three green light status display.
  • Dramatically increased operating time: Zenith can run for over two hours, as opposed to a drone’s 20 minutes or less. Inspectors can typically carry out automated inspections in a fraction of the time that it would take using a drone.
  • Carries additional payload: Unlike a drone, Zenith can be loaded with significant extra weight, without a loss of performance. While drones have very specific weight limitations, Zenith load-bearing capacity is much greater. Because it hangs from a cable it’s possible to add up to 5lbs in weight, over and above the 30x optical zoom visual camera that’s already built into the unit. Add-ons might include radiation sensors, additional lighting, or thermal imaging sensors.
  • Reduced risk: A key reason for using automated inspection technology is that of health and safety. Removing the need for humans to enter an asset to carry out regular inspections (as well as speed and cost elements) is the very reason we look to automation. However, drones can and do fail within enclosed areas (batteries run out of power or there might be a mechanical or software failure). Should this occur, then it’s necessary for human entry to retrieve it. Zenith represents a far lower risk, thanks to hanging from a steel cable (that supports more than 20 times its weight). Other safety features include pin tethers, anchor points, and manual winch-reeling in the rare event of retrieval being necessary.

The challenge of safe, fast, accurate, and cost-effective inspection of sphere tanks and other enclosed or hard-to-reach vertical assets (stacks, elevator shafts, sewer systems, mining shafts, etc.), is just one of the inspection elements that cutting-edge supplier of inspection equipment, Nexxis, brings to their customers. Known for a unique solutions-driven approach that’s as dynamic as a company’s needs, Zenith is just one example of focused, advanced technology that those who partner with Nexxis have at their fingertips.

To learn more about how you can introduce the Zenith into your next inspection, click on the button below.

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