How can UAVs for energy companies make a difference to operations?
Harry Cassar, Technology Director, Maxime Lecchi, Research Engineer, GDF SUEZ and Justin Philips, Lead R&D Engineer and Test Pilot, Terracam sat down to discuss how UAVs are achieving things that have not been done before at the Commercial UAV Show 2014.
End User Perspectives:
BP are using UAVs for inspection, flare stack inspection, under deck inspections and on shore work. There are also potential cases for exploration and drilling but that remains to be seen.
From a safety perspective, it’s important to stop putting people in dangerous situations and stop them hanging off ropes. However, big UAVs are difficult to implement and smaller UAVs are needed for oil and gas companies like BP in off shore and refinery operations.
The operations guys have the last word on safety. One key point to note is that BP are considering tethered UAVs. They think this might overcome regulation, increase safety and ultimately lower risk.
GDF Suez have been using UAVs since 2006 for visual inspections of pipelines. Inspections are risky, costly and difficult to implement. UAVs provide an alternative option but they are not conclusive for GDF Suez.
Again, it’s about the balance between developing small enough sensors against biggest UAVs that can carry heavier weights. GDF Suez believe we need both. With heavier UAVs you can book the flight range before however regulation is needed. If the flight path is out of the pilots line of sight then a lighter UAV is needed. The weight restrictions need to be lifted in order to develop the technology.
For GDF Suez, it’s not just the UAV but data interpretation and collection that is key.
Terracam – the UAV operator perspective
Terracam are continually surprised by the potential UAVs hold. Customers bring varying problems to them and they uncover new ways UAVs can help, for example, thermal analysis. UAVs can be used to look at frost formation as to avoid losing perishable products to frost.
The biggest benefits lie in safety; the mining industry in particular is one of the worst for safety.
Terracam want to see smaller UAVs but constant development is needed. It’s a cut throat industry and the tech is moving so fast. However, it’s noted that bigger UAVs are needed for payloads and medical supplies for example. The current Ebola crisis could benefit from UAVs, sending supplies in to affected areas and reducing the human risk.
What do you think?
A lot changes in a year. Join us at next year’s show to see which industries have moved forward with UAVs and what they have planned next. See the website for more details: www.terrapinn.com/uav