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Industry insight on using drones for inspections like the ELIOS 2

Last updated on

February 24, 2020


    In this blog you’ll find out: 

    • How to get into the industrial inspection sector using drone technology like the Elios 2 Inspection Drone
    • What drones you can use for industrial inspection
    • A comparison of the ELIOS 2 and the Caged Mavic for inspections
    • An insight into why organisations are keen to adopt technology that reduces risk


    Kyle Veitch is an MBA-qualified and forward-thinking business leader who develops improves and strengthens businesses in line with overall strategic vision. Kyle had 7 years’ board leadership and director-level experience at Bureau Veritas, a testing inspection certification company, before setting up his own Aerial Inspection company, Puffin Technology LTD, to start looking at drones for inspection.

    Kyle has a huge passion for innovation and technology and believes UAV technology can greatly drive the safer, faster and better operational running of organisations. He first introduced drone technology to Bureau Veritas as part of their blended inspection approach. Now he supports organisations by providing consultancy and inspection as a service for organisations looking to adopt drone technology. His clients include established organisations in the automobile, manufacturing and aeronautical industries as well as large well-known retailers.

    Kyle partnered with COPTRZ to supply his business with specialist hardware for his inspection company such as the Flyability ELIOS 2 and camera sensors for his Matrice 210 V2 RTK. Our UAV Strategist for Inspection, George Burne, sat down with Kyle to ask a few questions about his experience and how he is revolutionising organisations using drones.


    How did you first get into drones?

    I started using drones for photography, I initially kicked my PfCO off because I was beginning to sell photographs on Getty and Shutterstock. Coming from a compliance background in my previous role I understood that if I was going to make a profit from my images, I needed a PfCO in place. I had an initial idea to work in the wedding market but I found it to be very crowded so I decided to look at markets where drone can offer benefits – engineering inspection was a good start.

    Photograph by Kyle Veitch Puffin Technology Ltd

    Kyle Veitch Photography – Puffin Technology LTD


    I see that you’ve had your inspection business about six months now is that right?

    Yes, I took the plunge and left my previous job which was Technical Director for Bureau Veritas, a testing inspection certification company (TIC). I fancied a change from the corporate world and decided to set up my own aerial inspection company. I thought there’s a lot of drone companies out there doing this already but without the level of experience that I have in TIC industry. I thought I would come at this another way with the experience of the inspection world and bring drones into it. I already had a passion for drones and photography so combining that with my experience, drone inspection seemed like the right move for me.


    What does your working look like now and how have you found inspection opportunities?

    Well, this Monday and Tuesday I have a job at an aerospace company, Thursday to Friday I have a project booked in with a beverage producer that haven’t used drones significantly for visual inspection. With my experience I am able to ask questions of blue-chip organisations, ‘How are you deploying drones to reduce risk and improve compliance in your business?’. I’ve spent enough time in large organisations and know that reducing risk and improving compliance gets airtime with them.


    How do you find organisations are currently inspecting?

    There are of course thought leaders and innovators out there, but when it comes to engineering inspection, the use of drone for visual inspection is certainly not widespread from what I’ve seen.  That said, there is certainly an appetite to innovate, whether with drone or other technology which reduces risks, lowers cost and drives improvement.


    Are you primarily working as an external supplier with your clients?

    It’s a mix, I work on my own or with the client.  When working with the client, I work with their competent person to undertake the inspection, I find a workflow where the inspection is completed as much as possible, in real-time is the most efficient.  The video feed from the drone systems is so good that often an engineering decision based on the visual data in real-time can be made by the competent person.  Reviewing data post-operation is occasionally necessary, that’s where 4k data can yield better quality to help with the decision making.

    Using drones in inspection - Flyability ELIOS 2


    Why did you choose to partner with COPTRZ as your drone supplier?

    I originally did my PfCO with another supplier a few years ago but more recently I was in the market for an ELIOS 2 which led me to COPTRZ, the only UK stockist of the Flyability ELIOS 2 inspection drone.

    Watch the video below for a brief introduction to the world-leading confined space inspection drone


    What drones for inspection do you currently have in your fleet?

    At the top-end I have the Matrice 210 RTK V2, that’s the drone I use mostly externally now, that’s got payloads of the X5S and  XT2 Thermal camera, both from COPTRZ.  Internal operations, I use the ELIOS 2 and I have to say I use the Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual internally too, it’s a fantastic little system when you use propeller guards to protect it from catching any surfaces or corners during inspections. The Mavic, combined with the propeller guards is a great option for simple inspections like in a non-congested roof space, the moment you’re going to congested areas and confined spaces the next step for me is ELIOS 2, which can literally get anywhere you can fit a 400mm ball.

    Using drones in inspection - M210 V2 RTK

    Have you tried using the Mavic in a cage for an inspection?

    I did work with another UAV supplier that had developed a cage to go around Mavic. I flew this for a large retail client to inspect some out of reach areas in their headquarters. With the Mavic cage you’re limited on lighting options and the mountable LED light I was using could only point one direction.  A much better option is the ELIOS 2 which has clearly been engineered for confined space BVLOS indoors, this is now my go-to system. Even with the ELIOS 2 you need to be aware of building geometry and snagging issues when operating – and you still need a mitigation and rescue plan for that eventuality if the risk is present – using a purpose build system really does help I find.

    See below video of a Puffin Technology inspection of a Duct with the Flyability ELIOS 2

    How have you found flying the ELIOS 2 for your inspections?

    The ELIOS 2 is great, though it’s not as stable as the Mavic 2 it does work well for my confined space inspections. You do have to be careful though as you can get it stuck in building geometry, caught on a corner or a bolt for example. As part of my kit, I have a 10m fibreglass pole with a hook on the end of it to help retrieve the drone. My other piece of kit that I use quite often is the reel component from a stunt kite which I use on the ELIOS 2, a tethered arrangement for inspections in tubes, pipes or ducts where the rescue strategy is limited. Every job I do I conduct a thorough risk assessment which includes my retrieval strategy for any systems I use that could become stuck.

    Using drones in inspection - Flyability ELIOS 2

    Do you have clients concerned over the fact that the ELIOS 2 isn’t ATEX rated?

    It’s a common question from clients, it has recently been approved as a formal inspection tool by RoNik Inspectioneering and API (American Petroleum Institute). Today, ELIOS 2 is not ATEX rated, so this does rule out some operating environments. I would say this is one of the only shortcomings of the ELIOS 2.  That said, there is still a huge industrial space that the ELIOS 2 can operate in and deliver cost reduction and safety improvements.


    What inspections have you used the ELIOS 2 for and where do you see opportunities?

    Anywhere where we can reduce risk by not having to put a person in that space. We need to remind ourselves that all the ELIOS can do is a visual inspection. You get a lot of organisation’s that say ‘Well you still need to put a person in there’. My view is ‘Yes but can you get the ELIOS 2 in there first and eliminate as much as possible?’ You’re going to have less scaffolding, less down-time, less risk, less duration of people exposed to risk and so on. The ELIOS 2 is a visual inspection tool and does what it says on the tin, it can reduce the need to put teams of people into confined spaces or work at height. Often, you may still have to perform a manual inspection but the ELIOS 2 reduces frequency and duration of manual inspection is needed in many cases.


    Where do you see drone technology going?

    At a high level, the holy grail in media seems to be flying Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) with the likes of Amazon and others….   I would like to see innovation in inspection too, things like developing ATEX rated systems and refining the stability and autonomy technology further. I’d like to see LiDAR systems come down in price because Photogrammetry is great but it has its limitations. I’d also like to see organisations being able to embrace the technology. I think they’ve been bamboozled by the ‘man in a van’ drone businesses out there. It’s bridging the gap between what’s out there and what’s actually needed. There’s a danger that drones try to be everything to everybody and we have to remember that its part of a full toolkit and at the moment still needs a competent person to make the engineering decisions based on the drone data.

    Using drones in inspection - Innovative Technology

    Finally, in your experience, why is it so important for organisations to reduce risk?

    First of all, everybody now realises that the old ways were not the best and fundamentally I believe safety in the UK is seen as an absolute – organisations really do want their workforce to get home safe every day.  Enterprise risk as a whole, whether it’s managing your data or managing your workforce, you have to be able to demonstrate that you are managing that risk effectively. You hear people say how much will it cost – but what is the cost of an accident?  Damage to your brand, your social media channels, HSE enforcement action and FFI, insurance premium increases.

    If there is one thing organisations can do to demonstrate their commitment to reducing risk, it’s by continuous improvement and looking at embedding innovative technology like using drones for inspection into their workflows. Whether that’s deploying drone technology, AI or connected workforce technology, at the same time, keeping things simple.


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