Ford is now employing drone technology to improve the safety of workers at its Dagenham engine manufacturing plant.

The facility in Essex uses small drones fitted with cameras to inspect the highest parts of the plant, rather than sending staff members to heights of 50 metres.

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Previously, Ford’s team carried out this work by using extendable platforms and building scaffolding to check the plant’s 40-metre-long gantries that support the plant’s heavy machinery. Each area took 12 hours to inspect and involved closing facilities.

The drones, however, can quickly and safely traverse gantries, pipework and roof areas, managing the same tasks in just 12 minutes. As a result, the whole plant can be checked out in a day, using the on-board GoPro camera to examine hard-to-reach areas and make sure the plant reaches the required safety standards.

Because of the time savings, the team at Dagenham can now carry out more frequent inspections, allowing them to spot issues earlier and intervene in a more timely and cost-effective manner. The need to close areas while they are inspected is also a thing of the past.

Ford Drones Dagenham

“We’d joked about having a robot do the work when there was a lightbulb moment – use drones instead,” said Pat Manning, machining manager at Ford’s Dagenham Engine Plant. “We used have to scale heights of up to 50 metres to do the necessary checks on the roof and machining areas. Now we can cover the entire plant in one day and without the risk of team members having to work at dangerous heights.”

Ford has announced that it is now investigating ways of using the technology in other regions to improve safety and efficiency.