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NEWS | May 26, 2020

NNSY Works Smarter Utilizing Drone Technology

By Allison Conti, Public Affairs Specialist

A recent project at Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) utilized collaboration and innovation, putting the adage “work smarter, not harder” into practice. After NNSY was hit by a destructive storm April 13, various departments worked together to assess the damage and speedily make repairs under the direction of NNSY’s Nuclear Engineering and Planning Manager (NEPD) Curt Hart.

                The storm, which took place on Apr. 13, caused damage to several buildings. In one building, two large windows were blown out, shattering on the floor. No employees were injured, but the area needed to be assessed before repairs could begin. Hart was concerned performing a traditional inspection of the area would have taken weeks to complete. Instead, Hart called upon Security and Fire (Code 1120) and the Public Works Department (PWD) to use drones to assess the damage.

                According to Refueling Secretary Branch (Code 1124) Head Rob Hale, “by using the Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), also known as a drone for observation, we were able to save significant time that would have been required to construct staging for access to the involved areas.”

Hale and his team worked with Public Works Officer Commander William Butler and Engineer Chris Boucher to plan the flight and identify a launch site for the drone. Additionally, they partnered with NNSY’s Duty Office and Police Department so they were aware of the project.

The flight produced direct visual observation and still photos of the areas of interest. The images captured confirmed engineers suspicions that the building had failing window fasteners and provided details that would not have been able to be captured without drone support.

An evolution of approximately 90 minutes saved several weeks’ worth of time and effort. “This saved time and money, eliminated the need for personnel to perform high-risk work, and provided better support for the Fleet by getting the critical shop resources located inside the building back in action quicker,” said Hale.

                The project paved a path forward at NNSY to utilize drones on work previously done by personnel such as rooftop inspections, crane boom inspections, and in confined spaces. The shipyard’s Technology and Innovation (T&I) lab has begun working to determine how UAS can be used industrially. NNSY forces plan on using drones to support emergent security and fire situations and emergency management.

                Keeping employees safer, getting critical work done faster, and saving resources while doing it – that really is working smarter, not harder.