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 inspections, increase the safety of workers, and reduce the high costs associated with both manned aircraft and manual inspections.
Drones can be used 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 man-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 man-hours and place employees at risk.
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 other dangerous environments without human entry.
If circumstances are identified that 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.
Manual inspections in the oil and gas industry typically require halting production, creating significant downtime that is heavily expensive. Replacing manual inspections with drone inspections allows companies to acquire a detailed view of damaged areas without incurring this downtime.
Drone inspections allow oil and gas companies to better plan their resources, both human and financial. In addition to reducing expenses associated with downtime, drone inspections reduce costly man-hours involved in inspections. 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 completed 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 best deploy the technology. Drones offer obvious 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 be scaled for larger uses.
Digital Aerolus commercial drones
Digital Aerolus creates commercial drones designed to navigate indoor, inaccessible, and confined spaces. Because of our ground-breaking 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.