A real-life story by Leo van Houwelingen, Prevent Survey BV

Written by Karst Beens

Prevent Survey and H2O Drones have been good partners for a long time. But how did this cooperation come about? You can read it in this interview with Leo van Houwelingen, damage expert and co-owner of Prevent Survey BV.

To start with, the markets of Prevent Survey and H2O Drones cross. Prevent Survey’s activities include damage assessments of ship hulls, machinery and equipment of inland navigation vessels, offshore vessels, facilities such as harbour quays, locks and bridges.
That is where H2O Drones and Prevent Survey meet professionally. H2O Drones is specialised in underwater inspections by means of underwater drones of many of these objects.

“We were looking for a broadening of our work, namely underwater inspections without having to go into the water ourselves,” says Leo van Houwelingen. “After some research on the internet, we almost immediately ended up with H2O Drones.” According to Van Houwelingen, underwater inspections are almost non-existent in their world. “If we do, it is done with divers,” he explains. “If we did then, it would cost a lot of money. The problem in Dutch waters is not only the visibility, which is often poor, but also the currents.” Van Houwelingen explains that divers were moved by the current, making it difficult to determine exactly where they were and what they were inspecting. “They went underwater on the left hand side and came up again starboard side. So in our industry that didn’t always work very well.”

After some phone calls, good contact developed between H2O Drones and Prevent Survey. “We then purchased an underwater drone and designed a doppler system together with the H2O director Karst Beens”, says Van Houwelingen. With that, you can determine where the drone is underwater. “With that position, we knew which part of the ship was being inspected and could work accurately.”

Previously, Prevent Survey’s working method was a lot different, without underwater drones. Van Houwelingen: “Before, we often had to take a ship out of the water to properly inspect the bottom. That takes a lot of time and is also quite expensive. We thought we could do it better and faster, but how?”

“So we are now doing that with underwater drones with good success,” Van Houwelingen continues. “Even if a ship has damage underwater, it can be seen very quickly with the drones thanks to sonar. Then you don’t have to worry about the water quality either. It also broadens our market, which is very valuable. We would like to distinguish ourselves and thus deliver top quality work.”

Van Houwelingen explains that visibility is very important in the water. H2O Drones’ underwater drones are therefore also equipped with sonar. “Without sonar you can see just a meter with a lot of rubbish in the water. Sonar doesn’t suffer from that junk, so therefore you can see a lot.” Van Houwelingen says H2O Drones helped them a lot to master this. “The cooperation was always reliable and pleasant.”

The controls of the underwater drone were also explained by H2O Drones, says Van Houwelingen. “It is very easy to do. It is almost like a game. You shouldn’t handle it like that, of course, but it does make controlling it a lot easier.”

Van Houwelingen says he is very satisfied with the cooperation and service of H2O Drones. “H2O Drones is always there for us. It was like that right from the start. We had some problems with the batteries, but that was solved with great attention and patience. We were more than satisfied with that: It is a reliable partner of ours.”

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