Cody Warner | April 4th, 2017
For anyone who has found their way to a coal power plant, there is one very common theme throughout the place; safety is the key. It is reiterated with protocols, procedures, and plenty of signage. Coal power plant inspections are no different, as they are regularly conducted throughout the facility, in some places on a daily basis.
When you think of coal, you may think of the lumps of rock you receive when you don't make the "nice list" at Christmas time; you may think of the Industrial Revolution, you may think of air pollutants. What you are likely not thinking about is water, which is actually a key player in the process.
Water is converted to high-pressure steam, which turns the turbines that generate electricity. Water is also used to cool down the steam, to clean the coal, and process the fuel itself through its burning process. Coal power plants are usually placed near a steady water source such as a river, the water is brought in through intake structures and often stored in large "cooling towers" which are very similar structures to potable water tanks.
The thought of using robotics instead of humans to inspect is catching on. Aerial drones are being used to inspect the smoke stacks, the area that emits the excess steam from the top of the plant. Comparatively confined a space to the power plant's water tanks, this area has proven to be hazardous for an individual to physically survey.
The ability to have regular intervals of inspections enables the operators to take time lapses of the structures, monitoring small defects over time and prioritizing how soon repairs need to be conducted. This reduces cost and ensures no repair is ever put off for too long due to avoiding the high cost of divers.
Equipped with a built-in HD camera, the underwater drone has the ability to capture and record a live video feed to the handheld controller. Plant operators are able to keep a record of their findings and compare them to later inspections.
Its robust outer casing is manufactured on a unique pitching system allowing the ROV to maneuver within the confined spaces in the coal power plant.
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