The Power of Drones After Flight

Oil & Gas companies are learning the true benefits of drones are realized post-flight

Wed Aug 21 2019 00:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Oil & Gas industry could realize $50 billion in cost-savings from wider deployment of drones over the next 5 years, a Barclays report finds.

Drones are becoming an increasingly popular vehicle for many oil & gas companies. But as time passes, more of these companies are beginning to understand the benefit of drones isn’t realized during the flight itself, but after the drone has landed. 

After a flight, the images and data captured by DroneDeploy’s cloud-based software have the potential to be powerful tools for the oil & gas industry. They can be used for more detailed and accurate site-design during the planning stages of an oil & gas project; they can be used to monitor operation performance, most notably through inspections; and they can be vital in documenting a company’s site to provide proof and documentation of the work performed and safety measures taken.

Site-Design

Before a site can even begin production, it has to be properly mapped, surveyed, and designed. The oil & gas industry is well aware of the importance of this site-design planning stage, as one minor hiccup, oversight, or miscue can impact the budget of the project and hinder overall efficiency.

Using DroneDeploy’s mapping feature, companies will be provided topographical information about new site locations without having to send an entire team out in the field. These detailed maps — run in either 2D or 3D — can determine the best location as to where to construct the facilities, create access routes, and determine other logistical challenges. These maps also include important landmarks or obstructions, such as rivers, lakes, buildings, and roads that will help the engineers plan more efficiently, while also allowing them to view, edit and create annotations in 3D, which include line, marker, and area measurements.

Inspections

Inspections can prove incredibly costly, typically requiring facilities to shut down for days or even weeks, at times losing millions of dollars. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the oil & gas industry spends $37 billion a year monitoring nearly 10 million kilometers of pipelines across the globe. This number shouldn’t come as a surprise since inspections are notably dangerous (toxic fume emissions from tanks) and time-consuming (using climbing and suspension equipment can take hours to inspect a single flare stack).

Since worker safety is a top priority in the oil & gas industry, companies are looking for ways to reduce these risks and cut man hours.

A 2018 report by Goldman estimated that the market for pipeline inspections using drones could be worth $41 million globally, while the market for the offshore rig and refinery inspections using drones was projected to reach $1.1 billion.

While a fair number of oil & gas companies have discovered performing inspections with drones could be completed in a fraction of the time, a select few have also discovered an added bonus: the data pulled over time could be compared against past inspections — year-over-year, month-over-month — providing vital insights into any potential leaks, vegetation encroachments, or dangerous rusting. 

This data, studied over time, allowed companies to proactively monitor any potential risks within their operations. Companies utilizing drones in the oil & gas industry could now go from being reactive to predictive, massively cutting the inspection budget, while exponentially reducing risk. 

Documentation

The oil & gas industry’s strict safety specifications coupled with its unique legislative requirements demand highly specialized documentation in order to maintain an active production. DroneDeploy’s software makes it possible to transmit and share data across departments and executives, allowing collaboration and brainstorming to any challenges that may arise. 

Lawsuits and disputes have been just two of the challenges the oil & gas industry has faced. But by providing detailed documentation of what the company has and hasn’t done, a number of these lawsuits have been thrown out because detailed maps, overlays, and other data were submitted to prove otherwise. Having this type of concrete information available has proven invaluable to an industry rife with lawsuits and disagreements. The more a company can document what work has been performed, the less likely they are to face litigation or disputes.

Drone Software in the Future of Oil & Gas

AP/Vahid Salemi

The power of drones is obvious in the oil & gas industry, with a large number of companies using them to cut costs, cut man hours, and reduce risk, all while maintaining production. But more companies using DroneDeploy are beginning to see its long term benefits, and are already gleaning how impactful this software can be in the years to come.

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