Terra Drone and NDT CCS leverage Elios 2 to Access Inaccessible Oil Refinery Assets at ADNOC's RFCC Facilities

Inspection teams from Terra Drone and NDT CCS were able to inspect interior spaces of cyclones and boilers that were previously inaccessible, at the RFCC facilities operated by a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC).

Benefits in a nutshell


Using the Flyability Elios 2, teams were able to inspect the interior surfaces of narrow reactor cyclones, main risers, and CO boiler pipes.  Some of these assets are only a fraction wider than the size of a drone, and inaccessible to human inspectors. 


Four teams working in shifts used 2 Elios drones around the clock to complete a thorough inspection, including previously unseen areas, within a tight shut down window.


Elios allowed inspection of inaccessible areas from a safe distance, eliminating the need to crawl through narrow equipment or expose staff to dust.



RFCC, or Residue Fluid Catalytic Cracking, is one of the most important technologies to convert straight run fuel oil (SRFO) into lighter weight, higher value products like gasoline and diesel fuel.

Periodic inspections of RFCC facilities are required by law.  Inspections require a shutdown of the facility for the safety of the inspectors and workforce.

The ADNOC Ruwais RFCC can process approximately 127,000 barrels per day of feedstock.  Shutdowns to complete required inspections are both complex and extremely costly in lost production.  The shutdown and inspection process must be carried out as efficiently and effectively as possible to minimize the time required.


The RFCC plant includes critical components that are narrow and cylindrical in shape: reactor cyclones, reactor main risers, and CO boiler pipes and heaters.  Some of these confined spaces are impossible for human inspectors to access.  In addition, dust residue on the interior makes a human inspection unsafe.

Customer Needs

The customer needed a way to inspect the interior spaces of the plant components, to evaluate the need for repair or predictive maintenance.  These interior spaces are unsafe for human access due to their size and the possibility for exposure to hazardous dust residues.  

Any inspection needed to be completed as quickly as possible.   If the inspection could be executed at the beginning of the shutdown, some maintenance could be carried out before the end of the scheduled shutdown period, without the necessity for future shutdown or further costs in production loss.

In addition, the customer needed the inspection images and data delivered quickly and effectively to their company subject experts for review.


The Elios 2 was selected to complete the interior inspection of plant components.  Terra Drone and NDT CSS inspection experts provided the four inspection teams using 2 Elios drones.  Teams operated 24 hours per day in order to complete the mission within the scheduled shutdown period. 

Teams were able to remain safely outside of the components, without exposure to hazardous substances or the need to enter equipment directly.  Data from the inspection was sent seamlessly to refinery inspection experts for review.



While some of the interior spaces were little bigger than the Elios drone itself, teams were able to gather visual imagery that gave inspectors a new view of their assets, which included interior surfaces.  This data will allow inspectors to predict maintenance needs more accurately, and to plan follow up repairs in advance to minimize shutdown time.

This data about the interior surfaces of refinery components can be stored and compared by experts over time, giving inspectors a previously unavailable resource for planning repair processes.  Because the data can be viewed by multiple stakeholders, the inspection is not dependent upon the judgement of a single individual.

The Benefits of Using Elios 2 to Inspect the Interior of Plant Components:

  • Speed: Teams from Terra Drone and NDT CCS were able to complete the interior inspection of equipment within the tight window of the planned shutdown, providing critical data necessary for planning follow up maintenance.  The resilient Elios platform enabled 24-hour operation.

  • Access: The collision-proof Elios 2 was able to fly within the narrow interiors of the equipment and gather accurate inspection data despite darkness and narrow confines of the space. These spaces have been previously inaccessible for inspection.

  • Safety: Gathering inspection images with the Elios 2 meant that teams could remain on the exterior of the equipment, without potential exposure to hazardous substances or the need to climb into small and dangerous spaces.

  • Inspection Quality: Drone operators can see a live stream of data as they fly, ensuring that they are able to cover critical areas of interest.  The data can then be shared with inspection teams to review and respond collaboratively, rather than relying upon the judgment of a single individual inspector.

  • Reduced Shutdown Time: Shutdown is a major expense for the oil and gas industry and is a complex process requiring careful planning and preparation.  Reducing shutdown time represents a significant savings in cost.  The Elios 2 was able to complete the interior inspections of equipment within the shutdown period, giving inspectors more time and data with which to plan maintenance response.


RFCC has decided to take the trial of the Elios 2 to the project level, using drones for inspections on a regular basis.  The company also plans to test the Elios 3 during the next shutdown. 

The use of Elios to inspect interior areas that had been previously inaccessible provides major benefits in predictive maintenance and safe operations.   The RFCC project is just one successful inspection in the region.  ADNOC now plans to use drones for more asset inspections in the future, with their partners Terra Drone and NDT CCS. 


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