Despite recent bad press following the flight disruption at London’s Gatwick Airport, unmanned aerial platforms, or drones as they are more commonly called, have a vital role to play in industry. The use of drones in the oil and gas industry is growing, and the technology is ready to take off in a big way. It offers benefits to oil and gas operations in a numerous ways—safe and efficient maintenance and inspections among them—but the data that the technology provides is transforming the industry.
“Oil and gas companies will continue to explore new technologies and digitize their operations, especially as crude prices have fallen in recent months,” Renner Vaughn, Cape's director of oil and gas, explains. “Remote vehicles, including UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and underwater ROVs (remotely operated vehicles), will be operationalized as enterprises get beyond the testing phases and begin to realize the safety advantages, the time saved on asset inspections, and the situational awareness that live aerial video can provide.”
One of the more significant benefits of drones in the field to date has been their ability to improve safety in the field. As tools used to support and enhance emergency response and recovery, drones can provide live situational awareness during fires, spills, and other emergencies. Additionally, drones are enabling companies to safely and efficiently assess, monitor, and manage assets. This includes conducting routine inspections and providing real-time visibility into systems and sites that were once a challenge to view, fix, and maintain.
“With the ability to remotely pilot drones from anywhere in the world, whether onshore or off, operators can much more easily and quickly inspect well sites, pipelines, storage tanks, and offshore platforms, giving the right experts all the benefits of a first-person viewpoint, without the safety risks or time and cost required to manually traveling onsite,” Vaughn said. “For example, operators can deploy drones to get visibility on an alarm situation before sending a field operator out, helping them to more quickly get eyes on the situation while also keeping personnel out of a potentially dangerous situation.
“Additionally, the remote visibility offered through the drones can slash the costs of managing large-scale facility builds, minimizing timelines for approvals and drastically reducing costs previously required for travel, ensuring time, resources, and personnel are dedicated to more impactful areas of work.”
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