The rapid development of unmanned aerial vehicles and unmanned aircraft systems promises to change the way a host of services will be delivered to the gas, oil and mining sector. The versatile flying craft can carry payloads ranging from high-resolution cameras to other sophisticated sensors and can provide an array of functions ranging from surveying to leak detection and security flyovers.
[Source: GOMC Magazine – Flight Inspection – Peter Kenter | April 2013 Edition]
The following is an excerpt from the full article on pages 22-24 of the April 2013 edition of the GOMC magazine.
“We can see many challenges for the pipeline industry where UAVs and UASs can become viable solutions,” says Mark Piazza, director of Pipeline Programs with the Pipeline Research International. “They could assist in leak detection, and be used to inspect and monitor assets, particularly in areas where data needs to be collected quicly, for example near a pipeline river crossing during high flow conditions.”
Aeryon Labs Inc. of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, has been targeting customers in the GOM sector with its own small UAS (sUAS), the Aeryon Scout, since 2009. The Scout aerial vehicle weighs less than 3 pounds and uses a lithium-polymer battery to power four propellers that provide the Scout with lift, stability and forward thrust.
“We’ve reached a point where the use of the Scout provides clear economic benefits for a wide range of applications over traditional alternatives such as manned aircraft or ground survey crews,” says Ian McDonald, vice president of Product Marketing at Aeryon. “We’re seeing considerable possibilities for contractors in the resource sector to replace the three ‘Ds’ – work that is dull, dirty or dangerous.”
The Scout is controlled by a touch-screen tablet. Users can provide manual inputs through simple point-and-click controls on a map to navigate the vehicle, and aim the camera using a live video feed. Alternatively, users can specify an automated flight plan by drawing a grid over an area of interest, instructing the vehicle to fly at a certain altitude while following a series of GIS coordinates they want the Scout to cover.
The company bills the Scout as less of an aircraft and more of a platform for different applications required by contractors. “we work with clients to provide specialized solutions or instrumentation whether camera optics or other sensors, including the option for custom development to customer specification,” he says. “The range of available payloads continues to grow as more and more sensors are available in micro sizes suitable for an sUAS like the Scout.”
BP originally acquired Aeryon systems for oil spill planning and environmental assessments in 2011. Since then, the company has worked with live flare heads at BP installations where a manned inspection flight was considered too dangerous. The Scout collected video and high-resolution images of the flares and their supporting pipe infrastructure so BP could determine maintenance priorities for the company’s equipment. “We’re using the Aeryon Scout as a prototype, testing and looking at pipelines to see how it works,” says Glen Pomeroy, director of Pipeline Assurance with BP Alaska. “It can fly nearly at ground level with the pipeline, something that we don’t have to have a pilot for and something that lets us fly at our opportune time, not just the best weather time.”