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US DoD trials robotic fuel tank inspection
A robotics inspection team from Burns and McDonnell and A Hak Industrial Services has conducted a tank bottom inspection of a US Department of Defense (DoD) bulk fuel tank at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base.
The inspection, which took place in July, was carried out on an above-ground 3.3 million gallon fuel storage tank. Although the service is common in the commercial sector, it is the first time that robotic technology has been used for this purpose on a military tank.
Following the robotics inspection of the Fort Worth fuel tank, the tank was taken out of service, drained, and a traditional internal inspection was conducted. The DoD will compare the results from this visual inspection with the robotic analysis of the tank bottom to determine the validity of the robotics inspection and validate future usage.
Unlike an out-of-service inspection, a robotics inspection can be conducted while allowing the tank to be maintained in a usable state, eliminating the need for the tank to be drained. Using a remotely operated vehicle called Oil Tank Inspection Service, the robotic scanner is lowered into a fuel tank by a tether and remotely controlled from the exterior of the tank.
The robot crawls along the bottom of the tank capturing ultrasound thickness readings which are then mapped and reported to represent the overall condition of the tank bottom.
Preliminary results from the robotics inspection are available nearly instantaneously and can help to determine if further repairs are required, and whether a tank can be certified for continued further use without additional, time-consuming inspections.
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