How Drones Can Enhance Ride Inspections
Proper and timely ride inspections are a necessity for every attraction around the world. To maintain Ferris wheels, roller coasters, and water slides in like-new condition, skilled technicians secured by safety ropes will often climb structures to inspect them visually. An added tool in a proactive safety and maintenance program now comes with wings.
Drone-based inspections, with the addition of a remote-controlled 4K video camera, can add an extra layer of inspection to an already robust safety program.
Drone inspection service providers, such as Mistras Group and Applus+, can fly around ride structures and take detailed videos and photos that can be analyzed in real time back on the ground. These images can then be used to enhance maintenance procedures.
“Amusement park rides are great candidates for drone inspection because the technology allows us to reach areas that are normally difficult, costly, or have safety implications,” says Nick Harwood, operations manager with Mistras Group. “The drone allows for an efficient way to gain data while keeping its pilot safely on the ground.”
Drone-based inspections can also save park operators time and costs by reducing the need to rent and erect scaffolding.
“At West Edmonton Mall (WEM), inspectors found that the drone allowed them to look much more closely at the infrastructure supporting the park’s attractions than they ever had before,” says Zacc Dukowitz, marketing manager for Flyability, a drone maker specializing in inspections of industrial and mechanical structures.
Brian Mykitiuk, director of engineering and maintenance at WEM in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, is quoted in a Flyability case study explaining that using drones allows the park to “know immediately how things are looking” around the structure of rides and water slides.
How Drone Inspections Work
Drone inspections require flights be preplanned to ensure operator and employee safety.
Mistras Group walked Funworld through the process. First, the inspection pilot will coordinate with the amusement park client and Mistras Group’s inspection team to determine the project’s scope and data requirements. Next, the pilot will conduct a site survey to identify takeoff and landing areas, plus surrounding obstacles.
“At that point, work permits and checklists are completed and flight operations can begin,” says Harwood. “Once flights are complete, the data is transferred to inspection professionals who will analyse the data, build reports, and make recommendations.”
For WEM’s drone inspections when the park was closed, “inspectors flew the drone as close as possible to the rides in order to record video footage showing their condition,” Dukowitz says. All drone flights should be done when attractions are closed, free of guests or employees in the vicinity.
Morey’s Piers in Wildwood, New Jersey, United States, hired Mistras Group to inspect its rides a few years ago. “The high-definition picture quality was really incredible,” says Joseph DeLuca, the park’s maintenance planner and scheduler.
Yet, even with the addition of drone inspections, Morey’s Piers still uses climbers to examine surface and structural areas of its rides situated along the Atlantic Ocean.
Nevertheless, drone-based inspections can be highly useful, DeLuca says, adding drones can save attractions time.