The impact of drones at Heerema


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Business solution

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Business implementation

Support & Maintenance

Offshore crane inspections can be completed up to 16 hours faster than traditional methods when using a drone. Heerema has to undergo several large inspections for each heavy crane. These visual inspections often take one to two days. During this time the crane cannot be used, because the crane has to be put in the idle position (crane downtime). With the drone inspection the crane does not need to be put in a rest position. Also the drone inspects the whole crane in less than an hour.
10 hours
Traditional inspection
1 hour
Drone combined with AI
Reducing downtime
Problem description
Case study


Crane downtime takes a lot of time. It is to maintain the safety of Heerema but these inspections can take about two days, so nothing can be lifted for two days. Heerema has safety high up on the water and the safety of its personnel is also very important. By using drones in these inspections, Heerema's personnel no longer need to go to unsafe, awkward and inaccessible places.


Customdrone has proven, in a case at Heerema, that a drone in combination with AI can not only perform such an inspection faster, but also better than a human inspector. Using this technology, an inspector can therefore perform the entire inspection more efficiently.

The new drones on the Heerema fleet can do these entire visual inspections in just a few hours. This makes our drones 8 to 16 times faster depending on the project and the crew.


Heerema works with a sea-resistant drone that can withstand extreme conditions involving a lot of steel. Because of the large camera, the crane is viewed from close by, allowing them to see details of every bolt and every scratch.

Customdrone has worked in a short period of time to deliver a fully operational solution for inspecting cranes for various types of damage. We do this in a number of phases:

PHASE 1 Proof of concept

This phase focuses on putting together the right hardware and software for the specific client and situation. By equipping different drones with different cameras and sensors it becomes clear what the best combination is for each case and client. This depends on wishes, requirements, budget, system requirements and the flight environment.

PHASE 2 Data collection

The next step is data collection. That means flying a camera equipped drone and collecting drone images. By working together with the inspectors and data scientists to determine what the drone should see, search for and capture, an image is created of what the drone should do. In this phase, the drone flies, but the inspector does the inspection.

PHASE 3 Inspection and recognition

In this phase, the drone independently selects the drone images on which a deviation has been detected. The inspector no longer has to look at all the drone images, but only at the selected images.

PHASE 4 Autonomous flying

The final step in fully carrying out inspections. In this phase, the drone learns to fly itself in order to inspect the entire crane.

After each phase there is a go/no go moment, at which point it is determined whether and how the next phase will start.

Before we proceed to roll out, we work out the business case together with the client. In doing so, we also highlight, for example, operational and cultural consequences. How do we ensure that an inspector learns to rely on a drone? What does this mean for the organisation? This is very important for the success of this transition: a transition that does not end with drone inspections, but begins there.

see better
Drones don't overlook anything.

A good visual inspection drone is, among other things, equipped with artificial intelligence. This makes these drones self-learning. This allows the inspector to teach the drone to recognise certain damages.

After each flight, the drone becomes smarter and smarter, which makes it recognise the following points more and more quickly:

  • Various types of rust damage
  • Loose bolts
  • Paint damage
  • Incorrectly suspended cables
  • Metal deformations
  • Deviations compared to previous inspections

Once the drone has learned this, further steps can be taken.

For example, the drone can make a prediction after recognizing a number of damages. The drone can also connect to various software/ SCADA systems, including maintenance systems, so that the registration of damage can be processed immediately.

Extra eye

For several lifts it is sometimes very difficult for the crane driver to keep a good overview of the lift. By adding the drone to the hoist including a video transmission, which can be viewed anywhere in the ship, Heerema ensures that the right people, the right aerial images can be viewed live. This ensures the safety of the personnel around the lift even more.

know faster
Ten times faster, to be exact.

By combining drones with AI, a crane can be inspected up to 16 hours faster than with the human eye. This is not science fiction, but proven in practice at Heerema. This ensures that the downtime per crane inspection is reduced and therefore more hours of operation are available for heavy lifts. This means more assignments per year, because the crane will be stationary for less time.

More lifting. More yield.

By reducing crane downtime and speeding up inspections, the Heerema fleet makes more crane hours. The additional yield is enormous.

  • More inspection capacity
  • Less crane downtime
  • Lower costs
  • More lifts per year
10 hours
Traditional inspection
1 hour
Drone combined with AI
Reducing downtime

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