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4 Nov 2016

National Academy of Science Report Looks To Boost Offshore Safety Culture

In May 2016, the National Academy of Science (NAS) released a report entitled “Strengthening the Safety Culture in the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry.” This report offers recommendations to the industry and regulators to strengthen and sustain the safety culture of the offshore oil and gas industry. The report presents a definition of safety culture for government regulators and industry to adopt, discusses the elements of a strong safety culture and ways for assessing it, identifies barriers to strengthening safety culture, and offers recommendations to overcome these barriers.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement issued a policy in 2013 that defines safety culture as “the core values and behaviors of all members of an organization that reflect a commitment to conduct business in a manner that protects people and the environment.” The policy articulated nine characteristics of a robust safety culture:

  • Leadership commitment to safety values and actions
  • Respectful work environment
  • Environment of raising concerns
  • Effective safety and environmental communication
  • Personal accountability
  • Inquiring attitude
  • Hazard identification and risk management
  • Work processes
  • Continuous improvement

This NAS report provides a list of detailed recommendations for both regulators and industry that will contribute to and foster a positive and sustainable safety. The details of this study and its accompanying recommendations can be found in a summary entitled “Beyond Compliance.”

Download the summary here.

Find the full NAS report here.

3 Nov 2016

Piper Alpha Survivor Shares Experience



Piper Alpha survivor Steve Rae will discuss his thoughts and experiences from the disaster during a webinar set for 15 November. Rae’s presentation, titled “Piper Alpha—Accident or Predictable Surprise,” will examine how safety can be improved by everyone in the industry as individuals by accepting personal accountability and adopting a more proactive approach to work and safety.

Piper Alpha, a North Sea oil-production platform that had been converted to produce gas as well, was destroyed by explosions and the resulting fires on 6 July 1988, killing 167 people. The disaster has been considered a turning point for safety in the industry and continues to influence HSE design and considerations. Rae, who survived by jumping from a platform 80 ft into the sea, was one of 61 survivors.

Register for the webinar here.

2 Nov 2016

Efficiency, Innovation Needed for Sustainability Initiatives

Despite the rise of unconventionals, major offshore projects will continue to make up the bulk of new production, an expert said. As governments around the world seek to lower energy consumption and reduce carbon emissions in the wake of the low oil price environment, the industry must be proactive in ramping up its sustainability efforts in its offshore projects.



In a presentation, “Price of Oil—Sustainability and Innovation,” held by the SPE Gulf Coast Section’s Projects, Facilities, and Construction Study Group, 2016 SPE President Nathan Meehan discussed the issues affecting sustainability initiatives across the industry. Meehan is a senior executive adviser at Baker Hughes.

Efficient operations are the key to successful sustainability initiatives. Meehan said energy efficiency improves every measure of sustainability, because conservation and efficiency improvements lower the need for oil and gas to satisfy the primary global energy demand. To that end, the low oil price environment is harmful to sustainability because the prices drive demand for oil and reduce demand for alternative sources of energy as well as the demand for improved conservation measures.

Meehan said a lack of standardization in facility design is a significant factor in the lack of efficient facility construction schedules and operations. The learning curve for new facilities should decrease as operators repeat the execution of a standard blueprint. However, given the variations of geographic properties between offshore fields, a standard design is extremely difficult; the design template may be too small for some fields and too big for others.

“If you want to lower the costs and time to make something, you need to make a bunch of things that are exactly the same,” he said. “If you’re making a bunch of one-offs, you don’t get any better at it. Even if you just make one-offs all the time, you don’t get better. That’s a bit of a problem.”

Standardization should play a role in sustainability efforts, but Meehan said it is difficult for the industry to agree on which standards it should adopt. He said operators have a difficult time standardizing internally to begin with, making any efforts to collaborate with other operators even more of a challenge. Conversely, in areas where companies have agreed to standardization, the effect has been immediate, but the competitive costs were low.

“There are competitive factors, and then there are factors where you could say people have not been pushed to the point where they have to lower that cost,” he said.

In addition to standardization, Meehan said the industry must improve its efforts to develop creative solutions to operational inefficiencies. He said that engineers are skilled at improving existing technologies, which can be useful for lowering project costs and increasing efficiency. However, innovation is where companies can see significant gains. Meehan cited nanotechnology and high-temperature electronics, such as circuit boards, as areas of focus.

“This is globalization. We’ve got something, we’re going to make more of them, we’re going to make them cheaper, we’re going to make them smaller, faster, with higher pressure. Something used to work only at 4,000 psi, and now we’re going to make it at 10,000 psi, and so on. You used to build something for USD 20 million and now you can do it for USD 10 million. But the real difficult part is … this real kind of innovation,” Meehan said.

25 Oct 2016

Harnessing CO2 Content in Natural Gas for Environmental and Economic Gains

Carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and usage (CCU) is currently a global topical issue and is viewed as one possible route to reduction of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. The core issues facing the world in current times—development, economy, and environment—are identified as being dependent on the provision of clean, efficient, affordable, and reliable energy services. Currently, the world is highly dependent on fossil fuels for provision of energy services, and the amount of which renewable energies can sufficiently replace is minimal.

The deployment of appropriate CO2-separation technologies for the processing of natural gas is viewed as an abatement measure toward global CO2-emissions reduction. Selection of the optimum technology among the several separation technologies for a particular separation need requires special attention to harness the economic and environmental benefits. The captured CO2 would also require appropriate disposal or usage so as to sequester or “delay” its re-entry into the atmosphere. These challenges of CCU— involving natural gas particularly during processing, which has become an area of intense research—shall be discussed in the paper with respect to the selected technique for CO2 capture. A typical natural- gas-production scenario in Nigeria shall be analyzed for potential CO2 capture. Further discussion shall be on the identification of the recovered CO2 gas-usage framework, such as CO2 flooding (in enhanced oil recovery), for additional revenue generation, assessment of the CO2 savings, and the contribution to the clean development mechanism.

Read the paper here (PDF).

25 Oct 2016

Safety for a Helicopter Load/Unload Operation on an Offshore Platform

Helicopter operations are important in the offshore oil and gas industry. Helicopters perform a variety of roles, including crew change, logistics supply, and medical-emergency and evacuation duties. Because helicopter accidents can have fatal consequences, many helicopter safety reviews and arguments have been conducted. The pursuit of operational safety is continuous work. More industry experience contributes to more safety. This paper focuses on the specific helicopter operation that comprises the loading/unloading task of a slickline/wireline job on an offshore platform. The discussion was carried out as a case study that was based on actual operational experience.

Credit: Getty Images.

Credit: Getty Images.

When a slickline or an electrical wireline job is required on offshore oil/gas platforms that have no crane equipment, a helicopter load/unload operation is a common method used for transporting materials such as winch units, power-pack units, blowout-preventer units, and lubricators from the platform or from the offshore complex to the platform. A series of materials is transported separately by helicopter so that one lifted material can be within the maximum loading capacity of the helicopter. A materials-transportation package typically consists of four or five load/unload operations for an entire set of materials. These frequent load/unload operations are performed with a hovering action, which has the highest risk among helicopter actions (i.e., taking off, cruising, and approaching/landing). To achieve safety, all risk-mitigating factors are adequately incorporated into a plan that should be shared with all crew (pilot, company supervisor, slickline/wireline operators) in advance of the operation.

This paper discusses mitigations from various points of view, in addition to summarizing general safety tips. As a result of considering the psychological response of the ground crew on the basis of actual field experience, this paper recommends ways to remove mental factors that silently act on the actions of a helicopter marshaller. Moreover, fundamental measures are recommended to update marshalling methods and to use new-generation helicopters that are designed for improved safety requirements.

Read the full paper here (PDF).

21 Oct 2016

PetroTalk: The Challenges of Sustainability—A Rio Tinto Perspective

SPE recorded several presentations from the 2016 International Conference on Health, Safety, Security, Environment, and Social Responsibility held in Stavanger and is presenting them as PetroTalks. These insightful presentations were captured from experts within and beyond the oil and gas industry in order to bring the conversations to a larger audience.

Peter Harvey with Rio Tinto Diamonds and Minerals talks about the challenges of sustainability. In his presentation, he offers perspectives of what he has delineated as three key aspects of sustainability: sharing risk to deliver mutual value, collaborating to create trust, and leading through innovation.

“We need solutions that are going to work for all involved,” he said. “The crux is that sustainable practices can deliver a good rate of return for investing in them. …  It’s not just bottom-line numbers, but it’s also some of these license to operate, the intangible numbers, the above-ground risks that are so impactful when they go wrong.”


13 Oct 2016

Webinar Examines Importance of Health Contracts

A webinar on 19 October analyzed health contracts in the workplace and effective health management systems.

The webinar was organized by the SPE HSSE-SR Health Subcommittee in collaboration with the International Oil and Gas Producers Association (IOGP)  and IPIECA, the global oil and gas association for environmental and social issues.

Speakers during the webinar were Alex Barbey, international health coordinator with Schlumberger, Simon Hawthorne, vice president of legal for UnitedHealthcare Global Medical, Phil Sharples, global senior medical director for UnitedHealthcare Global Medical, and Eugene Toukam vice president of HSE for Schlumberger.

In 2015, to assist operator/contractor relationships and to help eliminate confusion about responsibilities and expectations, the IOGP/IPIECA health committee published a guideline document entitled Health Management Contract Guidelines for Clients and Contractors. The document provides guidance on

  • Health management system elements, requirements, and deliverables
  • Establishing roles and responsibilities between contractors and clients and operators
  • Health aspects related to the prequalification, bidding, and execution phases
  • Promoting transparency and effective communication on health management in contracts

Toukam and Hawthorne provided examples of real problems that can occur in the absence of a strategic contract management plan. Barbey, who was chairman of the IOGP/IPIECA health task force that produced the guideline, explained how the guidelines can help mitigate the issues described and prevent negative effects from deficiencies in contract management.

The talks are intended to inform professionals who either manage health contracts or who have responsibilities in supporting these contracts that, in the workplace, an effective health management system requires active and positive collaboration between operators and contractors. A lack of such a system creates the potential for

  • Loss of life
  • Health-related accidents
  • Injuries and illness
  • Disruptions in operations

Find the webinar archive on demand here.

6 Oct 2016

New Technical Report Examines Sharing Safety Lessons

SPE released a new technical report concerning offshore-safety data after its Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition (ATCE) in September. The report, “Assessing the Processes, Tools, and Value of Sharing and Learning From Offshore E&P Safety-Related Data,” was written by a committee of subject-matter experts (SMEs) with industry input from a summit held in April. The report is based on discussions and conclusions from the summit and is intended to provide guidance on an industrywide safety-management data-sharing program.

Summit Overview
In 2014, the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) approached SPE regarding an opportunity to collaborate on the development of a voluntary industrywide near-miss data-sharing framework. This framework was envisioned as a resource to enhance the industry’s ability to capture and share key learnings from near-miss events with the objective of identifying and mitigating risks. Although the collaboration initially focused only on near misses, evolving discussion resulted in increasing the scope to include a broader range of data. In the spirit of continuous improvement, a related objective was identified: to bring government and industry together to make a safe industry safer and to enhance public confidence in the industry.

Representatives from SPE and BSEE were co-chairs of a summit steering committee that included representatives from SPE, BSEE, exploration and production (E&P) operators, service companies, the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the Center for Offshore Safety, the American Bureau of Shipping, and the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers. Planning for the summit outlined that the scope of the data-collection and -reporting framework would begin with the US outer continental shelf (OCS). Additionally, a secondary objective was established: to consider how existing processes might be leveraged with an overarching objective to extend influence beyond the US OCS to align with other systems and requirements globally. In considering industry alternatives for developing a safety-data management framework, caution was advised to avoid creating an additional layer of reporting expectations beyond the current requirements by regulators and industry associations.

During the summit, Vice Admiral Brian Salerno, director of BSEE, shared his perspective on the importance of industrywide safety-data collection and sharing. He also encouraged the E&P industry to demonstrate to the public how a safe industry may be made safer through more open data sharing.

The discussions, expert opinions, and suggestions offered by the group of safety-data management SMEs during the summit were captured in the technical report, which was posted on the SPE website for comments and then approved by the SPE Board of Directors at ATCE in September.

Find the technical report on OnePetro here.

4 Oct 2016

Column: Risk Management at NASA and Its Applicability to the Oil and Gas Industry

On initial consideration, one might reasonably ask: What can the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) contribute to the oil and gas industry?

About 3 years ago, a senior principal at Deloitte Advisory’s Energy & Resources Operational Risk Group reached out to NASA to better understand the safety culture at NASA with the intent of understanding how that culture might translate to oil and gas operations. Very quickly, the conversation expanded to the realm of risk management.

Working with Deloitte, NASA came to appreciate the remarkable similarities between an offshore deepwater facility and the International Space Station. Both exist in extremely hostile environments. Both function in remote locations where movement of crew and supplies must be carefully choreographed. Both are extremely complex engineering structures where human reliability plays a critical role in mission success, and both have a deep commitment to personal and process safety.

It also should be noted that both have dedicated teams—the onboard crew and the onshore support experts—that live by the mentality that “failure is not an option” because of the consequences to life and the environment should a catastrophic mishap occur.

At NASA, we use qualitative techniques—such as fault trees, failure modes and effects analyses, and hazard assessments—to understand risk based on statistics, experience, or possibilities that our engineers can anticipate. Similarly, upstream oil and gas exploration and production uses qualitative techniques—such as process safety methods, barrier analyses, bowtie charts, hazard identification, and hazard and operability studies—to assess risk. At NASA, these qualitative approaches are augmented by a quantitative risk-assessment technique called probabilistic risk assessment (PRA) to uncover and mitigate low-probability sequences of events that can lead to high-consequence outcomes.

Why PRA?
The technique of PRA was developed by the nuclear power industry and initially published in mid-1975, though not widely publicized. However, the investigation of the Three Mile Island incident in 1979 revealed that the PRA had documented the sequence of low-probability events (both of hardware failures and human errors) that led to the high-­consequence near-meltdown of the nuclear core. As a result, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has required a facility-specific PRA for every nuclear power plant in the United States.

In February 2003, Space Shuttle Columbia was lost on re-entry when a piece of insulation foam broke off from the external tank and struck the wing leading edge of the space shuttle. Recognizing that the cause of this accident was a low-probability, high-consequence event, NASA committed to strengthen its safety and mission assurance capabilities. PRA was adopted and embraced by the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs.

A PRA creates a rigorous logic flow for a complex system. Every safety-related hardware component is captured as a node and quantitative reliability performance numbers are assigned to each possible outcome. For example, a pump can function as commanded, remain off when commanded on, remain on when commanded off, or operate at only a partial level of capability. Human actions also are captured as logic nodes that can have quantitative reliability information assigned to them. For example, a person can push the correct button within the assigned timeframe, push the wrong button, push the correct button outside the assigned timeframe, or do nothing.

A rigorous PRA also can account for common cause failures in both hardware and software. For example, if a pump fails in one system, then all similar pumps from the same lot/vendor that may exist in entirely separate systems are now suspect.

Given a high-consequence undesirable event (such as loss of hydrocarbon containment), every single path through the logic model that could lead to that event can be assessed. Should a low-probability action occur (perhaps a highly trained individual is distracted and fails to observe a change in the mud flow rate in vs. the mud flow rate out), then every other subsequent low-probability action(s) can be identified to mitigate the undesirable event.

In April 2015, I attended a conference that explored crossover technologies that might have applications to the space and energy sectors. Brian ­Salerno, director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), gave a presentation that included an acknowledgement that BSEE would need better tools to assess risk as operators moved to deeper drilling; higher temperatures and pressures; less well understood environments; and introduced new, emerging technologies. He suggested the need for a quantitative approach to risk management.

The outcome of several meetings was a US Government Interagency Agreement between BSEE and NASA signed in January 2016, formalizing a partnership between the two organizations for 5 years. Under this agreement, NASA will work with BSEE to develop a process for preparing PRAs for offshore deepwater drilling and production operations. Together with the oil and gas industry, we will evaluate whether the additional insights of a PRA provide meaningful information for the operators and contractors as well as for the regulator, BSEE.

NASA has a document to guide in the preparation and execution of a PRA referred to as the “Probabilistic Risk Assessment Procedures Guide for NASA Managers and Practitioners” (NASA document number SP-2011-3421). The first task that BSEE has given NASA is to rewrite the PRA Guide to be relevant to the oil and gas industry. NASA is scheduled to deliver the initial version of the document to BSEE by the end of the 2016 calendar year.

Projects With Anadarko
In addition to working with other government agencies, NASA has a special mechanism for working with commercial organizations. In situations where NASA has unique facilities, technologies, techniques, or experiences, it may enter into a reimbursable agreement (referred to as a Space Act Agreement) to perform work for the mutual benefit of the Space Act partner and NASA.

Anadarko Petroleum is working with suppliers to develop various subsea equipment with working pressures of more than 15,000 psi for their Shenandoah field in the Gulf of Mexico. The director of Engineering and Technology Global for Anadarko, Jim Raney, wanted to have a set of eyes from outside the industry look over the approach to risk management being used by his team for this activity. Anadarko entered into a Space Act Agreement with NASA in November 2014, enabling NASA to engage and participate in the project.

Anadarko introduced NASA to the unique layout of bowtie charts (an integration of fault trees and event trees), to the barrier analysis approach. Our eventual assessment back to Anadarko was that all their risk-management techniques were qualitative and, while excellently executed, might not capture low-probability, high-consequence events. NASA explained its use of quantitative PRA modeling to capture these types of events.

Anadarko was open-minded to the possibility that PRA might provide insights not otherwise available through their more traditional qualitative risk-management techniques. Because the project would require a blowout preventer (BOP) with a rated working pressure up to 20,000 psi, Anadarko asked NASA to prepare a PRA for a generic 20,000-psi BOP. The work began in October 2015.

The development of the BOP PRA was a true partnership; Anadarko provided world-class expertise on the design and operations of BOPs, and NASA provided world-class modelers and data analysts. The results of the BOP PRA model were presented to Anadarko management on 28 July 2016. A final report was delivered at the end of August.

While it is not my place to discuss any facet of the work that NASA did in partnership with Anadarko, I am able to state that Anadarko followed up the BOP work by asking NASA to perform a PRA of the dynamic positioning system being considered for the Shenandoah development. The PRA for that began in June and is ongoing.

NASA is just beginning to work with BSEE and the oil and gas industry. Our hope is that the benefits of a quantitative assessment of risk will both complement the industry’s current approach to risk management as well as help with risk-informed decision making. It has worked for NASA in the exploration of space. Could it also work for offshore deepwater drilling and production operations?

David Kaplan is a leader at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Johnson Space Center with more than 30 years of experience in aerospace engineering and management. He has been a project manager for Mars hardware, a space shuttle flight controller, and managed the crew health-care equipment on the International Space Station. Most recently, Kaplan served as chief of the Quality Division at the space center. In that position, he managed the NASA Failure Analysis Laboratory, which is instrumental in detecting counterfeit parts and assisting projects to reduce their risks associated with fabrication and operations. Currently, he is involved in assessing the applicability of NASA’s quantitative risk-management techniques to the oil and gas industry. He may be contacted at david.i.kaplan@nasa.gov.

29 Sep 2016

StatesFirst Releases Induced Seismicity Primer

On 28 September, the StatesFirst Induced Seismicity Working Group (ISWG) released a primer entitled “Potential Injection-Induced Seismicity Associated with Oil and Gas Development: A Primer on Technical and Regulatory Considerations Informing Risk Management and Mitigation.” The report provides guidance in mitigating seismic risks associated with wastewater disposal wells, not hydraulic fracturing.

The primer is intended to be informational and provides a valuable overview of the current state of research and technical understanding of induced seismicity related to Class II disposal wells. The report was peer reviewed and was developed by ISWG members with input from subject-matter experts from academia, industry, federal agencies, and environmental organizations. Scientists at the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) contributed to writing sections of the report, and scientists at NETL and the Office of Fossil Energy reviewed the report before its release.

StatesFirst is an initiative of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and the Ground Water Protection Council.

Read the primer here (PDF).

27 Sep 2016

ATCE: Addressing Human Factors Can Make Megaprojects Work

Megaprojects have become a mainstay of the modern oil and gas landscape, with more than 350 of these billion-dollar-plus facilities dotting the globe—each one designed to take advantage of economies of scale.

And, with so much at stake, both in terms of profitability and reputation, one might think that megaprojects would benefit from the industry’s time-tested management practices.

“This has proven not to be the case,” said Fuad Al-Azman, the general manager of area projects at Saudi Aramco, adding that studies show almost 65% of megaprojects fail to meet the performance goals established when the financial go-ahead was given.

Fuad Al-Azman, general manger of area projects at Saudi Aramco, said his company has adopted new management practices to ensure that its latest megaproject does not fail to deliver.

Fuad Al-Azman, general manger of area projects at Saudi Aramco, said his company has adopted new management practices to ensure that its latest megaproject does not fail to deliver.

Fuad Al-Azman, the general manger of area projects at Saudi Aramco, said his company has adopted new management practices to ensure that its latest megaproject does not fail to deliver. Al-Azman spoke about the challenges facing megaprojects during a panel session on 27 September at the SPE Annual Technology Conference and Exhibition in Dubai. He said about three-quarters of megaprojects suffer from schedule overruns, two-thirds were over budget, and actual costs are often 50% higher than the original estimates.

“Such is the state of our industry today; if a megaproject comes in at less than 25% over budget and 1 year behind schedule, it is considered a success,” remarked Al-Azman.

So what is the problem with completing megaprojects on time and on budget? The simple answer is people. This means employees, corporate management, and their governments share the vast majority of the blame—not the technology, the geology, or the environment.

Operators can avoid costly pitfalls if they focus on addressing the human-related problems that include overdesigning facility systems and introducing major changes midway through.

Al-Azman explained how his company’s attention to these issues pushed it to adopt new management strategies for the development of its latest megaproject—the Jazan Complex.

An illustration of the massive Jazan Complex under construction by Saudi Aramco. Credit: JazanGas.

An illustration of the massive Jazan Complex under construction by Saudi Aramco. Credit: JazanGas.

Still under construction, the Jazan Complex will be a 400,000 B/D refinery that features a liquefied gasification plant and a 3,900-MW power generation facility to support other developments in the remote southwestern region of the country.

This project involves 30 major contractors, 100 subcontractors, 1,000 supply vendors, and more than 70,000 construction workers. Al-Azman said the company devised a number of new strategies to manage this army of people and engineering resources.

One of them was to establish an automated database program that ties together the work that all these contractors are responsible for and serves as platform for the management teams to interface with one another. This program also generates constant progress reports, which Al-Azman said gives the management teams a “high-resolution” look at which parts of the project are on track or not.

He also said that the project team realized early on that face-to-face discussions between its numerous contractors were essential to meeting the project’s goals. To deal with the challenge of having so many people spread across four continents and many more time zones, the company established quarterly mini-conferences where 150 lead contractors meet to scrutinize agendas and ensure their targets are being met.

To ensure the Jazan Complex continues to move in the right direction, “we must strive to continue to learn as individuals, teams, and as organizations,” Al-Azman said. “Projects by their nature are very dynamic and they will not stand still. Why should we?”

Another challenge he addressed during his remarks had to do with the impact that current low oil prices will have on megaprojects going forward. Al-Azman’s advice was that with hindsight in hand, companies should build the potential for volatility into their megaproject designs.

“If you do the proper planning at the beginning, you can probably phase out what you don’t need or build a different stage later on,” he said, adding that the flexibility to reduce a project’s scope is the simplest and best way to cut costs in response to low oil and gas prices.

22 Sep 2016

Webinar Examines Unmanned Aerial Systems for Oil and Gas

A webinar set for 27 September will take a close look at the emerging use of unmanned aerial systems (UASs) in the oil and gas industry.


Balaji Ramachandran, who works in the Geomatics Program  in the Department of Applied Sciences at Nicholls, will speak on the new breed of remote sensing platforms. According to the Unmanned Systems Roadmap 2007–2032 document produced by the US Department of Defense, an unmanned system is “a powered vehicle that does not carry a human operator, can be operated autonomously or remotely, can be expendable or recoverable, and can carry a lethal or nonlethal payload. Unmanned vehicles are the primary component of unmanned systems.”

UAS are widely used in military applications that are “dull, dirty, and dangerous.” The size of the aircraft ranges from as small as 10 cm to Global Hawks drones with wingspans as wide as 70 m. Over the years, numerous terminologies have been associated with UASs—“remotely piloted vehicles,” “uninhabited aerial vehicles,” and “remotely operated aerial vehicles.”

A UAS can be equipped with a variety of multiple and interchangeable imaging devices and sensors, such as digital video cameras; infrared cameras; thermal, multispectral, and hyperspectral sensors; synthetic aperture radars; laser scanners; chemical, biological, and radiological sensors; and weather-monitoring devices. Small UAS (sUAS) platforms are ideal for aerial robotics in facility inspection and monitoring of deepwater production platforms and offshore and onshore facilities; as rapid response and assessment tools to monitor oil spills; for monitoring endangered species along oil and gas operation corridors; and for ensuring security of critical infrastructure.

Robotics technologies present an opportunity to develop reliable and deployable solutions to support business processes while removing personnel from the operating theater or accessing areas that would otherwise be difficult or impossible. Nicholls’ Geomatics Program started investigating the adoption of emerging UAS technology in the post-Katrina era for monitoring and mapping the coast. Since its inception as a research endeavor in 2005, the sUAS program has now grown into a mature component of Geomatics program instruction and research. The ongoing research projects include characterization of Louisiana barrier islands, inspection of offshore platforms, infrastructure monitoring, and precision agriculture. An sUAS certification program is being designed to prepare students in UAS-related careers.

Sign up for the webinar here.