Car Industry

Ford is turning to drones to keep human workers safe in the UK

Ford's Dagenham engine plant is using drones to perform inspections on high-off-the-ground equipment, rather than risking human lives.

When I hear the words "inspection" and "drone" slapped together I start getting visions of some kind of Philip K. Dick-esque dystopian hellscape, but actually, I might be jumping the gun there. I'll explain.

Factories can be dangerous places to work, especially for those employees who are tasked with inspecting the various catwalks, gantries, and pipework and light fixtures that are spread throughout an automotive factory, way up high.

Ford figured that there had to be a better, more efficient and less risky way to make sure these critical inspections got done and in the Dagenham plant in the UK, it has turned to drone technology as a solution, the company announced today.

Specially trained workers are being tasked throughout the factory with bright orange drones that have been fitted with GoPro cameras that allow them to inspect in detail in minutes what previously would have taken an entire day and risked the life of a human being.

"We'd joked about having a robot do the work when there was a lightbulb moment -- use drones instead," Pat Manning, machining manager at Ford Dagenham Engine Plant, said in a statement. "We used to have to scale heights of up to 50 meters 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."

The increases to safety and efficiency at Dagenham as a result of the use of these drones are so dramatic that Ford is now looking into expanding their use to other facilities around the world, and that's pretty cool.