DRONE INSPECTION OF A CULVERT FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AGENCY

Case study

100+ Years Experience Over 100 years' experience
Teamwork Teamwork
5 Star Review 5 star reviews
Nationwide (UK Wide Coverage) UK Wide Coverage
Established, growing company Established, growing company

Avoiding entering confined spaces unless absolutely necessary should be the goal of any organisation, so when the Environment Agency heard about the new drone technology MRS Training & Rescue had invested in, they were interested to find out more and see if it could be used to inspect culverts – work that would have previously been undertaken two teams totalling 6 people. A 3-person team walking through the culverts and tunnels, taking pictures and videos to use in the report they then collated. And a further three-person rescue team on standby in case of an emergency.

MRS Training & Rescue’s drone inspection service removes the need for people entering this hazardous environment, and reduces the cost and time spent carrying out these dangerous inspections.

Initial trial

Our specialist drone pilots initially undertook a small trial at a culvert in Worksop near Mansfield using our drone to show the agency team what was possible and the quality of information that could be collated.

The drone cannot operate under water and must be kept above water ensuring it is not too close for the water to be drawn up by the propellors (which are at the base of the drone so can cause down draft).

With this in mind, we conducted an initial risk assessment to ensure there was sufficient height above the water to fly the drone through the culvert.

Confident the water height would not pose an issue, the drone was then put to flight and using its innovative data capture capabilities, it took hundreds of images and video footage, highlighting any problems or issues in the culvert.

These photos and videos identified that the incoming entrance was blocked with debris washed in by the river that had collected in the entrance and built up over time. If this debris were dislodged, it could travel down the culvert and cause serious harm to anyone working in there.

The images also found deterioration in the concrete roof with exposed metal reinforcing apparent – which could fall and cause injury at any time.

Next steps

Following the initial trial, the Environment Agency are now interested in internal dimension surveys of two more culverts in Nottinghamshire to obtain up to date information and imagery of the current situation regarding debris/blockages.

The images far outperformed the traditional CCTV cameras. Because the drone battery life is 10 minutes, the survey must be planned, but that is completely do-able.
Neil Whitehead, Flood & Coastal Risk Management Technical Advisor for the East Midlands Environment Agency
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