Ford Uses Drones To Carry Out Dangerous Inspections

From using exoskeleton suits to body tracking technology, Ford Motor Company has been using the latest technology to keep their workers safe and create a more productive working environment. Now, Ford is mitigating danger in engine plants by using drones to inspect high-up areas.

The company has been experimenting camera-mounted drones to inspect gantries, pipework and roof areas at their Dagenham Engine Plant in the United Kingdom. The use of drones keeps Ford employees out of harm's way and eliminates the chances of falls and other accidents that could occur during the inspections.

Ford previously utilized automated extendable platforms and scaffolding to reach the high-up areas like the 40-meter-long gantries that took 12 hours to inspect prior to the drones, according to a statement from Ford.

Through the use of drones mounted with GoPro cameras, the maintenance staff at Ford’s Dagenham Engine Plant has reduced the average time of inspection from 12 hours to 12 minutes.

Pat Manning, the machining manager of the U.K.-based plant, says the decision to experiment with drones has improved efficiency and enhanced safety for workers.

“We’d joked about having a robot do the work when there was a lightbulb moment – use drones instead,” Manning said. “We used to have to scale heights of up to 50 metres to do the necessary checks on the roof and machining areas. Now we can cover the entire plant in one day and without the risk of team members having to work at dangerous heights.”

The time saved from the utilization of drones allows the plant to carry out more frequent inspections, which means the engine plant team doesn’t have to shut down operations to build scaffolding.

With the success of drone use in this United Kingdom plant, Ford says they will consider the use of similar technology in other plants across the world.

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