Commercial UAV Show, David Edem, drone technology, East Africa, oil, Tullow

How UAVs helped oil giants, Tullow Oil, succeed

In Oil and Gas by Jeremy CowardLeave a Comment

David Edem, Head of Business Technology at Tullow Oil plc, talks about UAVs in the oil industry

Tullow Oil plc is (1) Africa’s leading independent oil company and (2) a forerunner when it comes to embracing new ideas. That’s mainly down to David Edem, Tullow’s Head of Business Technology. Three years ago, David introduced UAVs to Tullow’s African operations – his responsibilities include planning how UAVs should be used and teaching his co-workers how to fly the unmanned vehicles. At this week’s Commercial UAV Show, David Edem was given twenty minutes to showcase how Tullow uses UAVs in the oil fields of East Africa.

What have Tullow done with UAV technology?

Today, Tullow are mainly using UAVs for tasks that were previously conducted with satellites. Having said that, Edem was quick to add that satellites are still extremely useful to his company and will not be universally replaced any time soon.

Previously, Tullow used satellites to identify potential oil wells. However, the images produced were often expensive to acquire and lacking in detail. A UAV with a camera attached is a cost effective alternative that can provide real time images in a much higher revolution. Once the oil well has been identified, Tullow’s next step is to build roads and bridges which make the area more accessible. Now they can use UAVs to map out those areas and plan their routes.

David Edem added that, when his company begins working in a remote location, they often get an influx of people moving to the nearby area looking for work. In reaction to this, Tullow have started using UAVs to survey the growth of these populations, gathering information that allows them to help local communities and which can be passed on to other institutions for further studies.

Clearly, UAVs can be used for more than just taking pretty pictures. Edem acknowledged that the oil industry have only scratched the surface when it comes to potential applications of UAV technology. If you delve further into this blog, you’ll see that this is true for almost every commercial industry. Take Tullow – when they build their roads and bridges, UAVs would be ideal for repairing and maintaining these structures. Network Rail have already announced plans to use drone in this fashion within the next five years. 

Tullow’s progress in Kenya has been slightly more difficult – they’ve had to acquire a special license from the Kenyan authorities in order to fly their drones. Kenya recently introduced a nationwide drone ban, which has hit their anti-poaching units particularly hard. Regulators are working together on universal laws regarding UAV usage, which will hopefully prevent large bans like these from being necessary in the future.

Find out what else you missed at The Commercial UAV Show, where 1600 people attended to learn who uses UAVs and how…

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