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Hold of MOL bulk carrier gets the drone treatment

Autonomous Control Systems Laboratory (ACSL) has demonstrated an inspection of the hold of a Mitsui OSK Lines-operated bulk carrier using an advanced drone.

Since 2013, Japan-based ACSL has been developing a range of drones for industrial and disaster prevention applications. The latest versions are increasingly autonomous and are equipped with image processing and AI technology – and are ideal for inspections of inaccessible locations.

The vessel taking part in this demonstration was used for coal shipments. These bulk carriers have holds up to 20 m in depth, which frequently create problems for staff carrying out inspections.

The ACSL drones don’t rely on locational data from satellite-based positioning systems, whose signals can’t penetrate the hull of a large vessel. The inspection of the MOL bulk carrier utilised LIDAR technology, which enabled the drone to estimate its own position, even with the hatch cover closed.

The ACSL drone also succeeded in shooting higher-definition inspection images even in dark areas by mounting a high-resolution camera compared to ones previously used for the inspection of holds.

Tsuyoshi Hashimoto, president of MOL, commented: “In the future, we will develop drones that can be easily operated by crewmembers, and to develop flight inspections in environments including closed and dark areas such as holds and ballast tanks for various types of ships.”

Andrew Cox

During the 1990s, Dr Andrew Cox was the editor of UK Coal Review and was a regular writer and commentator on the international coal trade and related infrastructure developments. Post-2000, he has been a freelance writer, CPD trainer and project consultant. He focuses on developments in the energy, chemicals, shipping and port sectors.
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