LA LÍNEA VERTICAL has taken part in a pioneering project in Spain to create 3D models using drones for future infrastructure works for the energy company CEPSA. This is a pilot industrial test that stems from CEPSA’s interest in sounding out the possibilities and performance offered by the most innovative technologies of the moment to improve the efficiency of its optimisation work.
The project has been developed in Huelva, in the proximities of CEPSA’s La Rábida Energy Park, where Lídar technology has been used to create virtual models by means of 3D point surveys using an unmanned autonomous vehicle (UAV) or drone. Specifically, this first work consisted of taking data in different areas of the chemical pole, such as areas adjacent to the perimeters of the industrial site, process line racks at different levels that cross the roads from one end to the other and plots with large surfaces in the southern part of the port area.
The BLK2FLY flying laser scanner from LEICA GEOSYSTEMS, the world’s first fully integrated lidar UAV, was used for the imaging. Its main function is to generate 3D point clouds, as well as taking 360° images as the aircraft flies. This has made it possible to scan the area much more quickly than if conventional techniques or aircraft with different characteristics to the one used had been used.
A couple of pilots from LA LÍNEA VERTICAL were in charge of operating the drone, following the procedures established by CEPSA. The work took more than a week and required a great deal of coordination between all the authorities involved in the project (the owner requesting the work (CEPSA), the Port Authority of Huelva and the State Aviation Safety Agency (AESA), among others).
In this case, Eduardo Carrasco Álvarez has been the coordinator of this CEPSA project on behalf of LA LÍNEA VERTICAL, who emphasises that the main challenge has been the planning of the works and complying with the documentary bureaucracy required for the correct development of the works, both for air permits and for the client’s work procedures.
The advantage of using a fully integrated flying Lidar scanner is that the technicians at LA LÍNEA VERTICAL could not only control the scanner from an iPad, but also receive real-time data during the scans with intelligent battery swapping to ensure almost uninterrupted flight during each of the scanning sessions.
One of the main functions in which the LA LÍNEA VERTICAL team excelled was operating the aircraft and squeezing the capabilities of the BLK2FLY, defining autonomous mission routes through the BLK2FLY Live app itself when possible, exposure to high temperatures, prolonged use of the system, the continuity of work execution that allows the change of batteries without stopping missions, squeezing the autonomy of the same, as well as the execution of manual flights in those areas where it was necessary to adjust the taking of details according to the client’s requirements.
CEPSA has emphasised that the introduction of 3D laser scanning improves and simplifies measurement and documentation in industrial plants. It is a complementary technology to the surveys carried out with high-resolution portable scanners and facilitates the mapping of areas that are difficult to access, tank areas, quick scans for first designs and topographic surveys.
Marga Postigo, the CEPSA engineer in charge of coordinating this pilot project, points out that this system “is going to make the work in the Projects department much easier, because of the speed with which we will be able to have 3D models to work on new designs and modifications”. And he acknowledges that this first test “has been a challenge”. He concludes that this test in which LA LÍNEA VERTICAL has participated will allow an analysis to be made at a technical, time and economic level, and is one of the possible tools for the creation of digital twins, which the energy company has been working on for some time.