Drones have entered the oil and gas industry as a flexible and cost-effective way to conduct inspections. The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) allows oil and gas companies to improve the quality of investigations, increase the safety of workers, and reduce the high costs associated with manual reviews.

Drones are utilized for a variety of purposes for indoor and confined space inspections, to more complex processes such as inspecting pipeline integrity.

By using drone technology, oil and gas companies are benefiting from a reduction in hazardous working hours. According to industry sources, using drones for inspections can result in efficiency gains up to 33 percent, and up to a 50 percent reduction in inspection costs.

Advantages of drones in the oil and gas industry

The primary benefit that is motivating many oil and gas companies to start a drone program is the ability to safely and quickly conduct inspections that traditionally require significant staff-hours and place employees at risk.

Increased safety

Safety is paramount in the energy industry, and UAVs allow companies to remove the risks associated with humans entering confined spaces or other dangerous areas. Drones can complete inspections of areas such as chimneys and smokestacks, storage tanks, critical production units of petroleum refineries, jetties, and hazardous environments without human entry.

If circumstances require human intervention, the time allotted for human involvement can be optimized and kept to a minimum. In many cases, drone inspections can also reduce the need for confined entry permits.

Less downtime

Manual inspections in the oil and gas industry typically require halting production, creating significant downtime that is expensive. Replacing manual inspections with drone inspections allows companies to acquire a detailed view of damaged areas without incurring this downtime.

Cost savings

Drone inspections allow oil and gas companies to plan their resources, both human and financially better. In addition to reducing expenses associated with downtime, drone inspections reduce precious working hours involved in investigations. Human entries require multiple workers, including a rescue team. With a drone inspection, the process involves fewer people — potentially one engineer and a drone pilot.

The ability to complete inspections faster also saves man-hours. A job requiring rappelling into a confined space, which may traditionally take 10-12 hours, can be achieved with a drone in far less time.

The future of drones in the oil and gas industry

The use of drones in the oil and gas industry is relatively new, and many companies are still learning how to deploy the technology best. Drones offer benefits such as reducing inspection time and cost, but many companies know they haven’t reached their full potential yet.

A well-planned technology roadmap can help oil and gas companies optimize drone capabilities and use them to improve existing operating procedures, then gain an understanding of how the technology can scale for more significant uses.

Digital Aerolus commercial drones

Digital Aerolus creates commercial drones designed to navigate indoor, inaccessible, and confined spaces. Because of our ground-breaking and proprietary Folded Geometry (FGC™) flight code, our drones safely and stably fly into areas where other drones cannot go, including areas that are GPS-denied, such as inside power plants and storage tanks.

Contact us today to learn more about our industrial drones and how they can help your company improve inspection quality, increase worker safety, and reduce inspection costs.