Artists have been experimenting with drones for a number of years. ICARUS ONE was probably the first. So drones that paint aren’t exactly new. AkzoNobel getting involved however is new. Painting with drones has, up until now, largely been carried out for fun. This captured the imagination of a few in the painting industry. As a result commercial painting drones are now at last getting serious.
We’re all familiar with AkzoNobel. They make paint, and other related products. Apellix may not be so familiar. They make flying robots. Or, drones combined with software. Robots designed to carry out repetitive tasks at height. Tasks such as cleaning, inspecting and coating. The Apellix UT and DFT drones are already in service. They carry out thickness measuring for the oil, gas, energy and shipping industry.
AkzoNobel & Apellix to develop autonomous commercial painting drones
The yet unnamed painting drone will come in two configurations. Tethered and untethered. The tethered aircraft will draw power and coatings from a base station. This will enable longer operating times. The untethered model with carry coatings onboard. It will also operate under its own power. Operating times for the untethered model will be shorter but it will be able to reach greater heights.
Safety has for years been a concern for coating applicators. Operating at heights is dangerous. The health and safety of painting technicians for instance is a top priority here at D&D Coatings. Operating at heights is also expensive. Using robots to apply coatings will be faster, cheaper and above all safer. This is, of course, providing the technology works.
A number of companies have tried using drones for jobs usually carried out by people with varying success. When AkzoNobel get involved in a project you know they are going to take things to the next level. Apellix are also respected in their field of expertise. Their collaboration should be a successful one.
The technical stuff
Development is currently progressing well with the umbilically tethered drone according to latest reports. It will fly autonomously to coat specific, pre-programmed areas. The drones ability to fly well is utilised by bespoke software. This effectively turns it into a flying robot. While flying and painting is easy, doing both autonomously is difficult. It takes a lot of programming. The software will ultimately take control of flying and painting simultaneously. A human operator will manage the process safely from the ground.
Apellix are learning about the quality expectations of paint application. A good quality coating should be applied evenly and efficiently. This ensures customer satisfaction and maintains lower material costs. AkzoNobel’s expertise in paint spraying is guiding development of the drone. They are also financing the project. Testing on large areas is due to take place in the Spring of 2020.
Checkout the early demonstration video below to see the painting drone in action.