Winter 2016

Eye in the sky

Building on its successful adaptation of ROVs, JF Nuclear has created a drone capability licensed to fly over hazardous areas.

After a 12-month training and certification process, the team at James Fisher Nuclear (JFN) is now offering a fully-functioning drone inspection service to its customers for use in hazardous areas.

The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are used as a flying camera platform to allow the capture of hi-res images in inaccessible or high-risk locations.

"UAVs have moved away from the hobby world and are really being taken seriously in industry now so we were keen to get ahead of the game."

Explains Simon Pyne, business development manager at JFN.

"We have invested in the best quality lightweight equipment and have trained our pilots to the highest level, which includes putting them through the HAZOP process so the kit can be used on a nuclear licensed site."

This clever adaptation of the latest flying technology is another example of JFN's engineering innovation which comes on the back of the company's pioneering use of specially adapted submersible ROVs. The plan is for the team to design and build light-weight thermal cameras, radiation probes, laser scanners and air samplers which can be mounted on the drones as required in the future.

For JFN's customers the use of drones has significant cost and safety benefits because they do away with the need for scaffolding or cranes as well as possible risks to staff safety. The three JFN drones are extremely light (2-3kg in weight) but robust and designed to remain stable in high winds.

Drone pioneers go aerial for nuclear site inspections

Pilots have been specially hand-picked for their hand-to-eye co-ordination skills before being put through a rigorous training programme and drone pilot certification.

The team has been working closely with Sellafield - JFN's largest and most longstanding customer to develop the necessary engineering and hone pilot skills.

One pilot, Bradley Jackson (who is 24) now divides his time between piloting ROVs and UAVs. He says:

"This is a dream job for me, it's quite unique – there are only a handful of people trained to properly fly UAVs. I do have experience of flying a hobby drone at home, and I've been an enthusiastic gamer since I was a child which clearly helped hone my hand-to-eye co-ordination.

All those years of practise have finally paid off!"

Award winners

JFN is proud to have received some recent industry accolades:

  • The Engineer magazine recently awarded the JFN engineering team and the Sellafield Pile Fuel Storage Ponds project team a 'highly commended' in the 'collaborate to innovate' category of their annual awards for their development of buoyancy bags and powerful magnets to remotely move large submerged items
  • The JFN team also received high commendation at a regional awards ceremony, Britain's Energy Coast Business Cluster (BECBC 2016). The award was sponsored by Sellafield and focused on its local supply chain
  • The team has been shortlisted at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA)'s Supply Chain Awards for 'best example of technology/innovation implementation' for its water jet cutting project

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