Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV’s) or Drones are increasingly being used by the Oil & Gas industry for their monitoring and inspection operations. With the use of drones becoming increasingly popular over traditional methods – dangling over ropes and wire - is it time to finally abandon these roles and instead adopt drones to take care of both on-shore and off-shore inspections?
Fircroft takes a look at one company – Sky-Futures who launched in the UAV business in 2011. The company provides clients with UAV and experienced operators for vertical structure inspections with the latest data analytics tools and software. Co-founder and COO at Sky-Futures Chris Blackford has worked with over 30 Oil & Gas clients globally to deliver the commercial UAV operations. Prior to his role at Sky-Futures Chris was an officer in the British Army for six years. Fircroft interviews Chris to find out more…
What impact do drones have on the oil and gas industry? How do they help?
The key benefits are that they are much safer, 85% faster and 85% cheaper than conventional inspection techniques such as rope access and scaffolding. The use of drones means that oil platforms don’t have to shut down for inspections. This is a huge cost benefit as shutdowns cost oil companies millions of dollars in lost revenue a day.
Drones are also used for collecting data sets which can be used to optimize the whole inspection and maintenance process by helping to predict failures.
What industry activities can they be used for?
They can be used for activities such as flare stack inspections, topside, under deck, splash zone inspections. They can be used on any part of the platform where inspections typically require rope access or scaffolding.
They can also be used for accurately analysing confined spaces such as storage tanks.
What elements does a fully kitted out drone contain?
These are hi-spec drones that can fly in conditions of up to 29 knots. They can be fitted with sensors such as HD video, HD still, thermal cameras, airborne gas sensing and laser measurement.
How might drones impact some of the other sectors in which Fircroft operate?
I know that drones are currently being used in lots of different industries. They can be used for volumetric assessments, monitoring build and change detection and monitoring conditions across a wide range of sectors.
Will the increase in industrial drone usage lead to a growth in drone-related jobs?
Certainly the manufacturing sector will see a rise in job demand. Eventually the industry will become automated to a degree but is likely to be a spike in demand over the next few years for pilots and then a cut back once more automation kicks in. The peripheral industries around drone inspection and drone manufacturing are sure to see a boost in job demand.
How big a part will data analysis play in all of this?
It's the biggest part. The drone is simply the computer and its role is to collect the valuable data which is then analysed by specialists. There's therefore likely to be a surge in demand for software development jobs in this part of the industry.
What's next for your industry?
The future will be total automation. Algorithms that will run a fully automated drone inspection service.
For more information on drones in the Oil & Gas industry take a look at our useful infographic.
Find out more about Sky Futures here.