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Remote Imaging Solutions unmanned aerial vehicle

Perth business Remote Imaging Solutions may have only been in business a year, but they are already helping the Royal Australian Navy make significant time and cost savings.

Director and Chief Pilot, Ben Durnin, says his company loves solving problems. “We come from engineering and technical backgrounds, and it’s our passion to work with clients to find practical and cost-effective solutions – rather than chasing expensive time-consuming elements.

In May 2017 the company undertook an internal inspection, using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), inside large fuel tanks of HMAS Sirius for the Navy. The company was engaged by Neptune Asset Integrity Services to trial using UAVs instead of traditional methods for two of the twelve tanks.

“There had been problems overseas before doing this kind of work, we looked at those and researched how we could overcome those issues,” Mr Durnin said.

“Although we knew the tanks would be clean and obstruction free, there would be no GPS signal, no reference point to hold the UAV steady – we had to fly it off the stick by sight. There were also elements of working inside a confined space on a tanker ship that made the job unique and challenging.

“We had to come up with a lighting solution to make sure the inspection was safe, and the inspector could see what he needed to in order to sign off the work – otherwise he may have had to use scaffolding and rigging which wouldn’t have saved any time or money.

“It was a great success, and certainly an Australian first. Both the Navy and the Senior Surveyor from Lloyd’s Register were happy with the outcome. We need to ensure we close the loop on the technology and process, so we can use UAVs in this type of situation now we’ve proved it can work. It’s a significant milestone in Australia.

“The great thing about the Australian shipping community is people find out what you’re doing! BAE contacted us about a ship coming out of maintenance - they needed to check the navigation lights at night and how far the light could be seen around the ship, but there was another ship in the way. Rather than turn the ship in the wharf or move the other ship, we used our drone at night to do the visual check for them. We did the work in two hours, had it verified, and the job signed off. It wasn’t a huge leap of the technology, but a good use of it.”

Remote Imaging Solutions hopes to grow their business further over the next two years with the support of the Centre for Defence Industry Capability.

“I’ve heard great things about the Centre for Defence Industry Capability and their Defence business advisers. We really want to get more Defence work, and build some momentum.

“The challenge is to help Defence understand what remotely operated aerial and underwater systems can be used for, so we can help save time and money while reducing risk to personnel.

“Defence needs to work with people they can trust. We hold a Remote Operators Certificate through CASA and are very proud of our skillset and experience in using both UAVs and remotely operated submersibles. The risks of using inexperienced or unlicensed operators can be quite high,” Mr Durnin said.

“We have experience in a large range of markets, but now we’re looking to see how we can help Defence. With the help of the Centre for Defence Industry Capability, we’re hoping to do a lot more in the next year or two.”