Inside Unmanned Systems

AUG 2015

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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56 unmanned systems inside September/October 2015 AIR OIL & GAS Geologic modeling BP also uses UAS in geologic modeling and training. A UAS was used to capture photos of river-deposited Cretaceous sandstones in Book Cliffs, Utah, said Curt Smith, technology director in BP's Digital Innovation Organization. The photos were used to create a 3-D model of the area, a task that would have been impossible without use of an aircraft, given a 1,000-foot drop. Photos courtesy of BP AeroVironment's Puma temperatures with winds blowing at 14 knots— all without being exposed to the harsh weather conditions. One project manager installing new pipelines was amazed by the fact he was able to get more data more quickly, without ever having to leave his office—or going through the envi- ronmental and safety training required to gain access to the rights of way. The 3-D map also clearly indicates every marshland and frog pond along their path— essentially everything they need to know about the wildlife in the area so they can avoid dis- turbing it when putting in pipelines. "They can share that information with envi- ronmental organizations or wildlife centers. It's a great way to show they are being good corpo- rate citizens," Glenn said. "I think that alone is invaluable. It's really important to the communi- ties they're operating in or through." Downstream Uses When it's time to inspect a flare stack or any other high-value infrastructure at a refinery or chemical plant, the machinery needs to be shut down, said David Proulx, VP product and mar- keting for Aeryon, a UAS company that provides services to the oil and gas industry. "Having a flare stack shutdown for manual inspection takes a week or more. It needs to be cooled down, then they have to bring it back up to its operating temperature," Proulx said. "Then there's the risk of having somebody visually in- spect it. They're difficult to get at, and using a manned aircraft is risky. If you introduce a small UAS like Aeryon's SkyRanger, you can keep the stack operating while you do routine mainte- nance and inspection of the infrastructure. You can perform the maintenance without having to shut down and without losing profits." Brian Whiteside, president of VDOS Global, uses the SkyRanger to do flare stack inspections as well as land surveying and monitoring for a va- riety of oil and gas companies, including Shell and Exxon Mobile, he said. The majority of the down- stream work VDOS does is visual inspection, in- cluding looking for corrosion, cracks or any other types of damage that indicate problems. "There's a lot of need and interest for this tech- nology, and I think it's going to be integrated into standard procedures going forward," Whiteside said, "and the biggest reason is safety. Everything they do has risk. This technology allows you to perform tasks without putting humans in dan- gerous positions. That's the real value this tech- nology represents." Challenges When companies like UAI or VDOS talk to oil and gas clients about UAS services, one of the biggest challenges is educating them about the technology and the many ways it can help their business. Most are new to the technology and are uncertain about the FAA regulations—some- thing UAI walks them through. "Most of them are not even thinking about UAS technology, but once we show them what it can do they're just blown away. Especially with the cost savings," Kroschel said. "A lot of them assume we're talking about large military drones, but you can't have a big drone like that around a chemical plant. It has to be a VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) system. You have to get up close and per- sonal, depending on what sensor the UAS is using and what information they need."

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