As an aerial vehicle, drones are no longer just for hobby flying. The commercial application of drones has pushed drones into various industries, most notably by utility companies to monitor remote and disparate facilities.
Now, for example, a team at the University of Aberdeen has proposed using drones to monitor oil and gas pipelines. A recent paper by the team explains how small but powerful sensors can be mounted on drones for regular inspections and monitoring.
Compared with the current monitoring that is usually carried out on foot or by helicopter, drones can significantly improve the efficiency of monitoring, especially in remote areas.
One of the main advantages of using drones for inspection and surveillance is that they can be programmed to cover large areas in a systematic manner and reach hard-to-reach areas. Not only is this approach more cost-effective, but it gives inspectors the flexibility to address any issues that restrict access, which is critical to spotting problems.
A comprehensive oil and gas pipeline monitoring system requires the use of specific sensors to detect rust or corrosion, or if the pipeline is underground, the presence of methane or changes in surrounding vegetation to indicate a failure. Drone-based surveillance is increasingly feasible as sensor technology is advancing fast enough to allow small but powerful sensors to be mounted on drones.
The use of drones for oil and gas pipeline monitoring may not have received as much public attention as urban delivery drones, but as the technology becomes more widely deployed, it will become a new trend in the field. In the near future, more and more utility companies or enterprises in the energy industry will adopt this technology to improve pipeline safety and reduce the risk of environmental disasters.
The team's paper demonstrates the regulatory function of drones to a certain extent. It is impossible to strengthen the surveillance capabilities of drones. The technology to lead drones to inspect, monitor and maintain oil and gas pipelines will become just around the corner!