DAM GOOD ROVS - The inspection and maintenance of vital resource facilities is an integral part of any regions health and stability management program


Courtesy of AC-CESS Co Uk Ltd

Providing consistent output while driving down inspection and maintenance costs is a key activity for those involved in the provision of such services, and requires the monitoring and assessment of relevant new technologies and techniques.

The use of divers in the inspection and maintenance of hydro dam facilities is a practice that will remain central to the effective running of these resources, with fully qualified divers carrying out crucial work that cannot be replicated through the deployment of technology. As many will be aware, the cost of such specialist services comes at a premium (up to £1000 per day per diver), with extensive outlay required before a diver can actually start the maintenance aspect of the work. While technology cannot replace the services provided by commercial divers, it can help reduce inspection related overheads through the deployment of remote visual inspection vehicles. Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) are not a new technology and will be familiar to most with many possessing hands on experience of these cost cutting vehicles.

Entering the water before the diver, the ROV is used in a number of ways to aid the diver and the work effort as a whole. Before a diver or dive team can begin inspection work, the dive must be planned and mapped - helping to ensure the safety of the dive in this hazardous environment. Without the use of an ROV, this mapping is done by the dive team and charged accordingly. With the use of the ROV, the mapping can be done without a man entering the water, thus cutting costs and increasing the safety of the team by removing the requirement of a man entering unmapped waters.

With highresolution digital video recording technology 'on board', the ROV relays the submerged environment to the topside in real time, giving clarity of vision in limited surroundings beyond that of the human eye. Real time recording allows the dive team to replay and reassess the dive site before finalising the dive plan and map, again increasing the safety of the man in water. The same technologies used to plan and map the dive are employed to reduce the costs of inspecting the fabric of the facility. High resolution digital camera/video can be used to visually inspect for corrosion and structural damage, the small size of the ROV allows access to areas beyond the reach of divers - pipe interiors, culverts etc., allowing a more comprehensive site inspection to be achieved.

Another advantage in using ROVs in this manor is, while divers are exceptionally well trained in their area of expertise, they are not engineers. Footage of the inspection site can be played back to qualified engineering professionals, thus ensuring the most comprehensive of inspections is carried out - and as yet no one has entered the water (or charged the facility for doing so).

The time has now come for the dive team to do what they do best - operate safely and productively in potentially very hazardous environments. Attending to the required maintenance, the divers are prewarned about possible danger areas after viewing the ROV footage, plus they now have an extra set of eyes in the water watching their backs. The ROV makes a great 'dive buddy' with the real time image feedback allowing the topside members of the team to keep a watchful eye on their colleges, while site facilitators can assess the work as it progresses. This scenario will not be new to many readers, but as mentioned it is the responsibility of facility managers to stay apprised of new technologies in their field of operation. Some may have concerns regarding the full accessibility of the site to an ROV and full operating system. This is not an issue to the next generation of inspection class ROV technologies, with the full system contained in a hand carry size case and the required power supplied via a small portable generator, the complete package can be deployed and controlled by one person.

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