October 4, 2016
The engineering innovation and technology team at subsidiary Southern Nuclear traveled to Plant Farley Sept. 13 to conduct the first-ever inspection carried out using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone.
The device was used to inspect both containment domes and the vertical walls of the vessels to confirm their structural integrity. The inspection is part of a five-year requirement that typically calls for personnel to climb to the top of each dome and along the entire surface, working more than 100 feet above the ground.
Scott Walden, lead engineer in Southern Nuclear fleet design, saw an opportunity to reduce the safety concern for plant employees. He approached the Farley site design organization with the case for using a UAV to take photos and record video for this recurring inspection. As a result, team members from Southern Nuclear engineering innovation and technology, Southern Company Services and Plant Farley came together to carry out the inspection using UAV technology.
"I thought the use of a UAV went very well, especially in regard to the overall amount of information we were able to get with the high resolution photos and video footage," Walden said. He added that while the drone might not take the place of a hands-on inspection, it provides a clear overview of any characteristic flaws or stress within the structure that can easily determine whether a hands-on inspection might be required.
In addition to mitigating personnel safety risks, the use of a UAV for these types of inspections results in cost and time savings, supporting the Southern Nuclear strategic objective of safe, reliable and cost-effective plant operation.
Ken Baity, site design manager at Plant Farley, said Southern Nuclear has plans to use UAV technology more in the future.
"We do intend to apply the technology for other applications or any type of inspections that require access to typically inaccessible places. The possibilities, at this point, are unlimited," he said.