Senaat subsidiary Emirates Steel, the only integrated steel plant in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has introduced what it believes is a ‘groundbreaking’ safety and inspection system utilising unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – otherwise known as drones.

According to Emirates Steel, this project is ‘a major step towards achieving increased plant availability, and maintaining efficient production by implementing a regular maintenance programme based on reliability and risk inspection’.

The implementation of drones is part of the steelmaker’s maintenance strategy and enables the company to track maintenance risks, analyse them and plan a safer and customised repair programme avoiding possible shutdowns. Phase one of the project includes the use of drones to inspect live flares at two direct-reduction (DRI) plants.

By using drones, Emirates Steel can save considerable sums of money as the most important element of aerial inspection is the elimination of plant shutdown time due to the fact that reaching such locations, if possible, would require ladders, scaffolding, and human elements. Drones allow for a much safer environment and easier inspection process and is used to inspect oil and gas, and petrochemical plants.

H.E. Saeed Ghumran Al Remeithi, CEO, Emirates Steel said that the company was keen to adopt the latest approaches and advanced technologies to ensure reliability of its operations and manufacturing processes. “To achieve the highest standards of asset integrity. Emirates Steel is one of the first regional and local industrial groups that has utilised unmanned aerial vehicle, in such inspections. Our number one priority is to maintain safety at our premises and plants with a full commitment to minimise risks,” he said.

Drone inspection includes the inaccessible areas of two direct-reduction plants; two flares – 70-feet Bunsen burners which flare off gases that are a by-product of the manufacturing process. The new technology has helped avoid a five-day shutdown in the DRP plants, which is typically required to inspect the flares.