Drones have become an increasingly popular research and data collection tool in a variety of industries over the last few years. The oil and gas sector is no exception. Companies are turning to unmanned autonomous vehicles (UAVs) to go where humans can’t, monitor what humans can’t see, and overall improve the bottom line. It makes sense—fewer man-hours plus more safety equals more monetary gain. There are big benefits UAVs bring that are worth sharing. So what are some of the ways oil and gas companies are using drones? Let’s examine a few:
Faster Data Collection
O&G operations can be time-sensitive. Fast and accurate data collection can save time, money, and even lives. That’s why UAVs have been such a helpful tool out in the field and inside the plant.
Drones can be used to inspect and monitor pipelines that would have taken countless man-hours. UAVs can inspect tanks and pipelines and other confined spaces that previously might require operational slowdowns or complete shutdowns. They can provide visual images and carry out other functions such as water sampling and creating 3D maps of prospective sites and surroundings. And they can do all of this more quickly than other methods of gathering this same information.
Fieldwork done in remote locations can be managed quickly and the information relayed anywhere in the world through the use of drones directed by workers on the ground. At the refinery level, UAVs can save time through streamlined analysis, product segregation, and logistics. They can perform all these functions seamlessly moving across various stages of the process.
Through the strategic use of drones, oil and gas businesses can collect just-in-time data to make the kinds of quick decisions needed to keep operations running efficiently.
Safer Work Environment
Faster is great, but safety is essential. Equipped with sensors, drones can detect spills, leaks from both internal and external surfaces. People can be alerted and evacuated if a problem is detected.
A safer work environment is also more productive. UAVs allow employees to inspect and monitor remotely, so they are not exposed to dangers found in oil and gas operations. Fewer injuries mean fewer hours lost, fewer worker’s comp claims, and fewer interactions with OSHA and other regulatory agencies.
And when problems do arise, UAVs are an extra layer of safety. Drones become especially useful following a blowout or natural disaster. They can be deployed immediately to assess the situation without worry about injury or exposure to hazardous materials or conditions.
Improved Productivity and Cost Efficiency
By using drones instead of manpower to perform some arduous tasks, oil and gas companies can save time and money, freeing up employees to work on other areas. Data from these explorations can help companies improve operations, efficiency, and productivity.
Drones can pick up what the naked eye cannot, making for more thorough data sets. The data collected can then lead to greater cost-efficiencies. With less reliance on manned aircraft or in-person visits to pipelines, drones are making the gathering of raw data a much simpler, less time-consuming process.
Here are just a few areas where UAVs can provide a service with greater efficiencies than through human efforts alone:
- Asset Integrity Management Offshore & Onshore
- Thermal Imagery
- Insulation Inspection
- Remote Area Inspection
- Rope Access & Scaffolding Support
- 3D Modeling
- Orthorectified Imagery
- Area Mapping & Survey
- Well Pad Restoration Survey
Drones make data collection more productive, being able to gather information on a 24/7 basis. This data can be used for real-time solutions to operational challenges, but can also be stored for use later. For instance, topographical and geological information gathered by UAVs can help identify more likely sites for future oil and gas exploration. Beyond exploration, the stored data can be used to spot trends and make smarter decisions about future deployment of resources and other critical decisions that require hard data to make.
The benefits of UAVs in the oil and gas sector can be a huge asset in gaining trust and buy-in from various constituencies. With the right information in hand right now and stored for ongoing research and analytics, the work of drones is making a big impact on the industry. Faster, safer, and more productive data collection is a net positive that cannot be ignored.
The original version of this article was first published on Saxum.
Jeff Risley is the Chief Strategy Officer for Saxum, an issues-based, marketing communication agency founded in 2003, with offices in Oklahoma City, Houston, and Tulsa. Jeff has spent his career in marketing and business development, largely focused in the energy sector, but also leading teams focused on disruptive solutions, infrastructure, place-making, criminal justice reform, and education reform. As you might guess, he’s not afraid to tackle important issues in the world and he’s as passionate about working to effect change as he is about helping clients realize their visions and achieve their goals. Saxum has been on the Inc. 5000 list for eight straight years, and that’s an accomplishment the entire Saxum team is proud of. You can find Jeff on Twitter at @RisleyRanch and connect with him on LinkedIn here: Jeff Risley on LinkedIn or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.